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Community Renewables Development Project

Why This Matters

Ensuring access to renewable energy is a key part of promoting climate prosperity in the Silicon Valley region. Until recently, consumers interested in renewable energy had only one option: they had to finance and maintain their own energy generation system. But community-owned renewable energy makes it possible for utilities to provide renewable energy from a single generation site to a multitude of customers in a community.

In addition to expanding access to renewable energy and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Silicon Valley, community solar would also increase supply by facilitating local generation. Although remote generation still provides broad environmental benefits, local generation supports local jobs, fosters community engagement and identity, and results in an energy procurement program tailored to the region.

How It Works

Community renewable energy ensures that both commercial and residential energy customers can purchase energy that would best meet their needs, as interested customers would be able to non-participating customers could rest assured that hidden costs would not drive up their energy bill.

flow chart showing how community renewable energy works

While the specifics of community renewable procurement could take many different forms, generally a plant owner sells energy via a power purchase agreement (PPA) to an energy offtaker, usually a utility such as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The utility would then offer renewable energy produced by the plant to residential and commercial customers under a subscription program. Customers in the program would agree to pay a specified rate for renewable energy, called a Green Tariff. Although high customer affinity generally increases participation in green tariff programs, as residents are more likely to pay more for energy that has a greater visibility and positive impact on their community, remote generation of renewable energy is also possible under this structure. Community renewables grant local leaders the ability to customize a renewable energy procurement program that best fits the needs of their constituency.

SEEDZ Involvement

SEEDZ is currently tracking the California Public Utilities Commission’s rulemaking process for SB 43 “Green Tariff/Shared Renewables Program,” which represents the first opportunity for shared renewable energy development. By allowing customers to buy 100% renewable energy, procured within the territory, directly from the energy offtaker. SEEDZ continues to follow the debate over ratepayer indifference while promoting customer affinity and local generation by meeting with selected parties.

Prior to the passage of SB 43, SEEDZ collaborated with the City of Sunnyvale to produce the Sunnyvale Community Solar Array Development, a study analyzing the feasibility of implementing a 3 MW shared array within city limits. City staff identified either a landfill site or a wastewater treatment pond as potential locations for a mid-sized solar plant. The City Council reviewed the study in late November, and referred the project for further analysis, which will be heavily influenced by the ongoing SB 43 rulemaking process.