- Author: Gareth J Mayhead
Potential changes to Feed-in Tariffs (Public Utilities Code: 399.20)
Feed-in tariffs in California allow a small renewable electricity generator (including those fueled by biomass) to sell electricity to a utility at predefined terms and conditions, without contract negotiations. The current rules mean that there is no price incentive in the rate paid for electricity. Price is linked to the Market Price Referent (MPR) which the CPUC determines by the long-term ownership, operating, and fixed-price fuel costs for a new 500 MW natural gas fired combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant. Feed-in tariffs for renewable electricity in Europe are very different and include a price incentive in the tariff paid in addition to streamlined contract procedures.
A ruling was issued by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on June 28, 2011, seeking comments on or before July 21, 2011 with respect to proposed changes to the program. This presented an opportunity to suggest changes to the program. Representatives from the broad forestry and biomass sector suggested changes that would make investments in smaller biomass to electricity facilities (less than 3 MW) economically viable. This is important in order to develop a viable market for the waste generated from ecosystem restoration projects on public lands and to help offset the cost of this work.
The next step will be workshop on the proposed changes that is to be scheduled by the CPUC soon. If the pricing for the new feed-in tariff is based on actual development, ownership, operating and fuel costs for small scale biomass to electricity projects then this could be a really exciting opportunity for community scaled facilities in the state.
UPDATE (September 19 2011)
The CPUC has scheduled a workshop for September 26th at the Commission Auditorium (505 Van Ness, San Francisco) from 9am-5pm. Workshop information here.
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