California regulators want to direct $100 million in state energy storage incentives to a new class of disadvantaged customers: those living in parts of the state at the highest risk of deadly wildfires.
The California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposed decision last week on the “equity budget” within the Self-Generation Incentive Program, the state’s main incentive program for behind-the-meter batteries.
The proposed decision would direct $100 million from SGIP’s equity budget — a set-aside aimed at low-income, medically compromised or otherwise disadvantaged residents — to vulnerable households, critical services facilities, and low-income solar program customers in Tier 3 high-fire-threat districts.
These types of customers are far more likely to find value in multihour batteries attached to their rooftop solar system than the typical low-income or elderly California resident who would qualify for the equity budget. That, along with the potential to supply critical infrastructure with solar-storage systems, is likely to make for an attractive target market for solar and energy storage developers like Sunrun and Tesla.
The proposed decision could be voted on by the CPUC as early as next month. Last year, California’s legislature extended the SGIP for five more years and provided about $830 million in total funding.
SGIP’s equity budget offers higher incentives than the mainstream program for behind-the-meter battery installations, from 35 cents to up to 50 cents per watt-hour.
While the new proposal would only cover next year’s SGIP budget at present, the CPUC plans to consider collecting up to $100 million annually to keep the program going.
California faces a years-long public policy challenge to tackle its increasingly deadly wildfires, fueled by expanding human development, hotter and drier conditions caused by climate change, and in some cases utility power lines such as the Pacific Gas & Electric transmission line that started November’s Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and caused an estimated $12 billion in damage.