California ‘s proposed Smart Grid Deployment Plan aims to facilitate the development of 12,000 megawatts of distributed power in the state by 2020. Whether or not this is feasible is largely dependent on the ease in which such small-scale systems can connect to the grid. The state’s net metering program allows wind, solar and fuel-cell generators to connect to the grid in order to offset a facility’s electricity consumption. However, in order for other types of renewable energy systems to connect to the grid, the systems must qualify for the state’s feed-in tariff program – a process that can be prohibitively long and expensive for small-scale generators.
However, the state has recently made a significant change to its net metering law that could pave the way toward bringing more distributed renewable energy generation resources online. The Renewable Energy Equity Act (SB 489), authored by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, allows all renewable energy resources, including biomass and biogas, to participate in the state’s net metering program. This is seen as huge victory for the state’s farmers, as it provides a more direct pathway to connect small-scale bio-energy projects, such as biodigesters and bio-waste-to-energy systems, to the grid.
The Renewable Energy Equity Act was sponsored by the California Climate and Agriculture Network, a coalition supported by a diverse group of California agricultural organizations and environmental groups.
“Governor Brown recognized the value of SB 489 for jobs, our environment and our state’s farmers,” Wolk said. “Today, California made it easier to turn agricultural waste products like wine pumice and nut shells into clean energy. And that will help us reach the state’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions goals while spurring needed economic development.”