The CSGT Program is a new program designed to afford low-income communities in California greater participation in renewable energy development. CSGT builds off the State’s Enhanced Community Renewables (ECR) Program, which began in 2015 and enables ratepayers to buy ‘subscriptions’ of renewable energy from energy projects through their utility. Recognizing that ratepayers who participate in ECR projects tend to pay a premium for their subscription, the CPUC sought to increase accessibility of the shared renewable projects to disadvantaged communities. The CPUC designed three programs to encourage DAC participation in renewables- the DAC Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH) program, the DAC Green Tariff (DAC-GT) program and the CSGT program.
Projects developed through the CSGT program will be located in communities that are in the top 25% of DACs in the state based on their CalEnviroScreen 3.0 score. CSGT offers these subscribers a 20% discount off their electricity bill when they sign up to be part of the project. A project developer must partner with a local organization to ensure meaningful community engagement. The program details were approved in a CPUC decision in June 2019 and utilities are expected to seek project bids in late 2019 or 2020.
Statewide, 40 MW of capacity have been allocated to CSGT in DACs projects. Each Investor Owned Utility (IOU) and Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) has been allocated a capacity proportional to the population of DACs within their service territory. Just over 21% of the DAC’s in PG&E’s service territory live in areas served by a CCA. So of PG&E’s 18 MW of capacity for CSGT, 14.2 MW will be allocated to projects serving PG&E customers, and the remaining 3.8 MW will be allocated to CCA’s based on the respective number of people who live in DAC’s that each CCA serves.
CSGT projects have no minimum size and can be a maximum of either 3 MW or 30% of the total capacity allocated to the IOU, whichever is greater. The maximum size in PG&E territory is 30% of the 14.2 MW mentioned above, or 4.26 MW.
Energy developers pursuing a CSGT project in a DAC must partner with a community-based organization to ensure adequate and meaningful community engagement. That organization can subscribe to up to 25% of the project’s capacity.
Energy projects must be sited in census tracts ranked in the top 25% of DACs as defined by the State’ CalEnviroScreen score, which considers environmental justice indicators such as local air quality, income, and other socio-economic indices. Communities in these locations also bear the largest “energy burdens” in the state. An energy burden is the percent of a household’s annual income that is used to pay their utility bill.
Subscribers must live either in the same DAC as the project site or in a DAC with 5 miles of that DAC (as defined by the census tract boundaries). At least 50% of the subscribers must be low-income ratepayers, and the rest of the capacity can be filled with non-income qualifying ratepayers who live within the eligible DACs.
Participants will subscribe to the project for 100% of their average load and receive a 20% discount off of their otherwise applicate rate. That discount will be applied on-bill and the IOU will be reimbursed for the difference by utility greenhouse gas allowances or a public purpose program funds if greenhouse gas allowances run out.
Relevant Legislation and CPUC Decisions
SB 43 - Passed in 2013, Senate Bill 43 outlined what became the Green Tariff and Shared Renewables (GTSR) program launched in 2015. This bill carved out 600 MW of capacity statewide for the program, 100 MW of which were allocated to environmental justice projects.
AB 617 - Required California Air Resources Board (CARB) to address non-vehicle air pollution in DACs, which resulted in the Community Air Protection Program (CAPP) that identified specific communities to work with in reducing local air pollution.
AB 327 - Passed in 2013, Assembly Bill 327 directed the CPUC to address the lack of access to and participation in renewable energy development, such as rooftop solar, by low-income residents in California.
SB 350 - In addition to increasing California’s RPS to 80% by 2050, SB350 also lead the CPUC to establish a DAC working group to address obstacles to DAC participation in renewables.