California Seen Beating Renewable Energy Generation Goal

Public support for rooftop solar and investments by major companies will push renewable energy generation beyond California’s targets by 2020, a Los Angeles energy lawyer said.

Projects by Microsoft Corp. and other companies are showing an appetite for wind and solar power that will continue even if the federal government doesn’t extend tax credits that expire at the end of the year, said Jerry Bloom, chairman of Winston & Strawn LLP’s energy, project development and finance practice group.

“People are saying we don’t care there is a 33 percent cap in California; we need more,” Bloom said at the Platts California Power and Gas Conference in San Francisco. The state is requiring that solar, wind and other renewable sources make up 33 percent of the electricity supply by 2020.

A new California law allowing owners of rooftop solar to receive retail rates for excess power they sell to their local utilities will drive behind-the-meter solar projects, said Bryan Miller, vice president of public policy and power markets at Sunrun Inc., a rooftop solar developer.

Large corporations including Google Inc., Apple Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have been investing in renewable energy as part of sustainability or environmental initiatives, Bloom said. He said he expects Congress to extend production tax credits for wind and other renewable resources and that states have shown they will step in with incentives if necessary.

“It’s the Bill Gateses, the Yahoos and the Googles and Apple that just bought a solar facility to operate themselves,” Bloom said. “They give us the ability to push regulators and to get roadblocks out of the way.”

An expiration of the federal incentives would just drive the prices of renewable energy credits higher, Miller said. The new law, AB 327, removed constraints on developing rooftop solar and will let the state get more than 33 percent of its power from renewables, he said.

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