The Greenius Solution To All California’s Problems: AB 920 + AB 811 *UPDATED*

Greenius on the Roof in Long Beach installing solar for GRID Alternatives

AB 920 + AB 811 = Solar Powered Electric Cars & PV Powered Charging Stations

solar-car-charging-stationI used to get frustrated with people when they couldn’t grok what was so blatantly obvious to me.  The dots that other folks were failing to even see, already looked pre-connected to me –  like those incredibly real artificial Christmas trees with the lights already set in place and ready to plug-in.

It took me about five decades to realize that I was just wired to see things a certain way and that most other people come at the same things from a very different angle.

What I’m seeing plain-as-day right now is the simple and obvious solar solution to all of California’s budget and growth problems.

But I’m also seeing something even bigger and better than that.  And you’ll be seeing it too, right after the jump…marin_sunset_520cDear readers, this is a golden vision for the Golden State the Greenius is laying out for you today.  I’m seeing  you and me changing the course of history – while we still have a gambler’s chance, right here and right now.  But we’re going to need to smack some political hacks upside the head first.  Dont’ worry, it will only sting for a short while.

My Greenius vision sees billions of dollars pumped into California in good paying jobs, in new clean energy power production, in new industries, and in all the tax revenue that comes with that growth.  That money is our state’s for the taking, but they’re not going to just hand it to us – we’ve got to grab it with both hands.

Plugin2009My vision makes us the world leader in the new electric transportation future that is destined to replace gasoline-powered transportation – the one that Asia is currently on course to lead. We can take that lead if we want it.

It also sets California as the world model for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and generating clean, renewable power and provides the rest of the planet with an easy to follow path to a better way and stopping a catastrophe before it engulfs us.  How’s that for a plan?

And it’s all so simple and doable, even a Caveman could do it – so long as there was a Greenius around to explain it the way I’m going to right here in this not-so-humble blog.

36a043e48198abd052fb05a969f713bd_fullI’ve written recently about the pulverizing one-two punch that AB 811which gives property owners 20 year loans to pay for solar PV installation – and AB 920 – which pays solar PV owners for any excess solar power they produce and pump back into the grid – packs.   AB 811 is already law and here in L.A. County the money will be flowing to property owners in less than 12 months from that program.

AB 920 has passed the California Assembly and is now in the California Senate where its fate will be determined in upcoming weeks.  It has a good shot to pass and become law if the utility companies SCE and (AUGUST 13 UPDATE: THIS JUST IN FROM LAWRENCE COOPER – SCE was neutral on the bill and has recently come on board to support it.  So big props to SCE!  Thanks electric company of mine.) PG&E and their pals on the Public Utilities Commission don’t screw us all with their short-sighted and wrong-headed opposition and lobbying against it.  So lets not BOHICA and let them.

All we’ve got to do is lobby our State Senators and Good Old Green Govenator Schwarzenegger.

ted lieuQuick!  Somebody Wake Up Termed-Out Ted & Tell Him The News

I tried getting the inside news on the Magic Bullet Feed-In Tariff bill AB 920 from my very own local district’s Assemblyman, Ted Lieu, who claims to have co-authored the bill, but I just couldn’t get Ted out of his self-induced coma that rendered him speechless and paralyzed to do anything to promote or champion the bill.  I suspect Ted just doesn’t have it in him to take on a big league issue like this – especially when he’s so busy trying to raise more money to add to his $700,000 “war chest” for the Attorney General’s office he’s now running for…

Scan-090810-0001I spoke to Termed-Out Ted in person last night at the L.A. County Democratic Party Franklin and Elanor Roosevelt Dinner and he was his usual uninspiring self.  Even though I’ve met him a half dozen times, Ted still introduced himself to me and handed me his business card.

He asked for my card too, but I learned my lesson about the money-begging spam Ted sends you when you give him your card, so I told him I wasn’t carrying any.  It was pretty clear he didn’t have a clue who I was – which is quite fine with me.  But it also seems pretty obvious that Ted doesn’t have much of a clue how important AB 920,  is or how to effectively lobby for the bill.  And when it comes to a sense of urgency on climate change, well lets just say I saw no physical sign that Ted is out of his coma yet.  Frankly, I’ve given up on him and his equally moribund staff at this point.


So rather than beat a dead horse, last week I went straight to the source and got in touch with Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s office up in Sacramento.  He’s the Assemblyman who actually wrote the bill and has been working on this issue for years now.  Assemblyman Huffman knows what a priority getting feed-in tariffs for solar and wind generation are in California.  And he’s not afraid or too busy to work hard for his own bill.  Some might even say he champions his bill.  Maybe that’s because Assemblyman Huffman gets it.


So even though I’m not in his district and I haven’t sent him any campaign contributions, Assemblyman Huffman’s point person on AB 920, Lawrence Cooper, gave me a call last week and told me everything I wanted to know about the feed in tariff bill and its chances in the California state senate.

Cooper was a huge contrast to Jeff Gozzo from Ted’s office who called me a couple of months ago after my forth email request but who didn’t seem to know anything about AB 920 or want to discuss how I could help in any way.

I started by asking Cooper how AB 920 was progressing through the Senate at this point:

We’ve got some pretty decent press coverage on it.  The assemblyman worked on the bill last year and that bill (AB 1920) was on the Senate floor on the last night of session during all the chaos ready to go and they adjourned before they got to that point in the file, because that was the last night of a two year session it died.  So we brought it back this year.  We are fighting the utilities on it.

One of your questions you asked is, does it realistically have a chance, and I think it definitely does.  The big challenge for us is going to be the Senate floor because the dynamic of the Senate has changed a little bit.  And there’s a much more sort of moderate element.  And a lot of these environmental bills are struggling when they get to the floor for a vote.  So I think that will be a challenge for us to round up the votes on it.  But we’ve had some bipartisan support.  We’ve had 3-4 Republicans vote for it when it went through the Assembly.  It got out pretty comfortably from the Assembly, it didn’t just squeak out with the 41 votes.

Jared Huffman
California Assemblyman Jared Huffman

Would you say he’s the champion of this bill?

Yeah, he definitely is.  And from a staff perspective it’s great for me.  He knows more about this than I do.  He’s worked hard every step that we’ve gone to committee and on the floor to make sure we’ve got the votes.  I know he’s talked with the Pro Tempore in the Senate and the Pro Tem’s staff about keeping an eye on the bill and making sure it moves along.

Appropriations will take some work to get it out, because the bill does have a cost – although it’s not very big, but the state’s not exactly rolling in cash right now, so anything with any cost is tough to get out of Appropriations.  But it will probably be our top priority bill.

They ask members to list their priorities and this will probably be our number one.  So I’m pretty confident it will get out of Appropriations and then I think the real challenge for us will be the Senate floor.

And it hasn’t been amended so it doesn’t need to come back on concurrence.  So even though we got good votes and it comfortably got out the less steps we have to fight to get it through the easier it is from my perspective.

What’s the Governor’s stance on AB 920?  Will he sign the bill if it passes?

We’ve had initial conversations at the staff level, but at this point the Governor’s staff won’t indicate in any way.  They’re kind of like, “Thanks very much for the heads up, we’ll keep an eye on it.”

The PUC is opposed, but he’s shown a willingness to kind of buck the PUC on issues like this in the past.  And I think he likes his tag as the green-minded Governor. And solar in particular I know he’s interested in.  We have some good contacts in the Gov’s office that I think we’ll call on, closer to the time.  I would say the chances of it getting to Gov’s office are good and the chances of him signing it are good.

With that in mind what can we do to help tip the scales?  How can we best lobby for AB 920 as enthusiasts and as the green community?

I think it would be helpful if moderate Democrats in the Senate heard from their districts pushing hard for this.  And the other thing is, and we’ve heard this from some of them, I think they see solar as a benefit for people with huge amounts of disposable income who have the money to invest in it, which is partially true, but we also have school districts and affordable housing coalitions, agriculture and others who support the bill and are interested in investing in solar.  I think it’s kind of expanding support.  And the sponsors we’re working with, like Environment California, have done a lot of studies about that.  It’s surprising when you look at it because the face of solar is changing.

And AB811 has a lot to do with that.  I’m closely following the work of Howard Choy and their Countywide AB 811 program and that pretty much blows the “solar is for rich upper class folks” spin.   With AB 811 property owners of all income groups will be able to put that big up front cost as a 20 year loan and put it on your property taxes.  And the county of L.A. is using federal stimulus money to kick-start their program and they’re going to be rolling out a large program countywide.

The combo of AB 811 and 920 is the one-two punch that solar needs. Ab 811 provides the funding and AB 920 gives everyone an incentive to maximize their solar power generation while at the same time driving higher energy efficiency from solar owners.  The less energy you use and the more solar you have the more money you’re going to make in feed-in tariffs.  That equation is going to drive solar installations across the board on every roof in the state.  That’s jobs, jobs, jobs and money, money, money for California.

And all that available cheap solar electricity is what’s going to drive the sales explosion of electric and plug-in vehicles in California just as they’re becoming available over the next three years.  Because once folks find out that they can not only eliminate their electric bills  with PV, but that their solar power gives them free fuel for life for their electric car, then they’re going be driving on sunshine and loving it.  That’s going to make us the King of Solar as well as the King of Electric Cars.

So the PUC’s opposition is completely schizophrenic when you consider their ten-year strategic plan that we cut energy use in all California housing units by 40% by 2020.  Opposing something that will jump start solar doesn’t make a lot of sense.

There’s a couple things about the PUC opposition.  First off what they’re saying is almost exactly what the utilities are saying.  It’s almost like the utilities had written their letter, which bothered me a little bit.

The other thing was their suggestion was why not just roll over the credit.  The problem with that is, the very problem that the bill addresses.  If you’re producing a surplus because you made efficiency upgrades or you’re trying to save energy, rolling over the credit just means it’s ever accumulating.  And then there’s that perverse incentive that “I’m making making all this energy I should just use it up.  I don’t get anything for it.”

Sure, why not just run the air conditioning with the doors open?

Yeah! Exactly, and why bother trying to upgrade your energy efficiency by weatherizing your home, etc. There’s no incentive or reason to do that because you don’t get anything for it.  Their argument of well, why don’t you just let them roll it over is counter-intuitive with what we’re trying to do with the bill.

Right.  I think the PUCs only valid argument is one over what price the utilities should have to pay solar owners for the excess energy they produce.  There they have a legitimate claim with an investment in infrastructure.  What does AB 920 do about the price solar producers would be paid?

It allows the PUC to determine the cost.  And it specifies that they should set a rate that holds other ratepayers harmless.  So that there’s not a cost shift to those in lower income groups.  That’s there partly to respond to the argument that ratepayers are subsidizing the wealthy to put solar on their homes and then reduce their energy bills.  It’s not like you’d be making a profit if you oversized your solar system.

No, but you’ve seen what’s happened in Gainesville Florida, and it does incentize property owners to fill their roofs with solar to feed green energy back into the grid.  And we’re never going to meet our RPS goals for 2010 or 2020 unless we start putting solar on a whole lot of rooftops because its going to take years and years to get the big solar built and connected to the grid.

I think that will be our argument with the Governor.  You know, SB 1, the Million Solar Roofs initiative, and all of that’s related.  AB 920 is a key component of that.

What are we at, about 70,000 roofs of that million?  Only 930,000 more roofs to go?!

Yeah, something like that.  We’re not close.

But this is encouraging news and I’ll get the word out.  It sounds like we have a great shot to make a difference with this bill.

I definitely think it does.  Any help you can give with coverage and getting people involved we’d greatly appreciate.


So there you have it kids.  Feed In tariffs for solar (and wind energy too) are there and waiting for us to grab them. And once we do we can grab that electric car market and make it our own.  And part of that will be the building of a charging system infrastructure that means more money, more jobs and more success for California.  It’s plain as day for any intelligent and honest person to see.  And it’s exactly  what we need to do to cut our greenhouse gas emissions for our future survival as a civilization.

All we’ve got to do is speak up and reach out to your state senators and the Governor.  I’m going to be sending this post directly to my state Senator Jenny Oropeza and I’ll report back what she says.  Knowing Oropeza, she’s already planning on voting for the bill.arnold bucks

I’m going to reach out to the Govenator too and tell him what I’m thinking.  His vision for California seems to have gone belly up, and I’m thinking that like most actors who don’t write and don’t direct, Arnold needs it all spelled out on the page for him in scripted form to truly visualize it himself.  That’s okay.  That’s what the Greenius is here for.

And maybe watching this guy will help:

6 thoughts on “The Greenius Solution To All California’s Problems: AB 920 + AB 811 *UPDATED*

  1. Would any of Ted Lieu’s $700K War Chest have come from utilities companies or the energy industry?

    As for all the jobs waiting to be had building a state-wide electric charging infrastructure, did I send you this?

    When I talked to the inventor, 16 states had auctioned the right as of last month…

    Lieu should be hiding in his closet after that bitch-slap!

    From the Greenius:
    I’m sure Ted isn’t hiding and doesn’t feel like he’s been bitch-slapped. I haven’t seen any evidence that Ted feels ANYTHING and when you’ve always got your hand out for more campaign cash every place you go, hiding isn’t an option. Besides I just got an email from Ted inviting me to hear him talk about and issue he REALLY cares about – abandoned boats in the different Marina. Termed-Out Ted just gets funnier every time I hear from him

  2. Awesome interview — very inspiring.

    From the Greenius:
    Just so long as you think I wasn’t too “harsh” on my dynamo of an Assemblyman.

  3. Wow. I just stumbled on this blog via the Ecomotion site because a group of us have been working incredibly hard for 2 + years to get AB 811 on line (first year) and FUNDED (this year), and for generous FITs. I was in touch with Huffman’s office a lot last year on AB 1920, which was very disappointing-ly weakened in committee (read- when the utilities were allowed to redline it). We pushed very very hard to get critical pieces put back in, such as NO CAP ON SYSTEM SIZES, FLAT FIT RATES BASED ON 10% ROI, and NO CAP ON UTILITY UPTAKES.

    Can you please tell me if any of these things made it back into the current AB 920? If not, with respect, it is practically useless from an incentive standpoint. CPUC has famously insisted on using the bizarre and inaccurate “market referent” for FITs they are allowed to set (see current program with zero subscribers), so why would you trust them to set fair rates now? At their current rates, the BEST possible outcome, even if you installed a PV system in the Mojave and never used a single kWh, would be “break even” at the 20 year mark. Not exactly working for the ratepayers, if you get my drift.

    The original bill also allowed ratepayers to intentionally oversize their systems so more clean, harmless solar could be fed into the grid (and our wilderness areas would not be destroyed by Big Energy monopolists) and that was pulled by the utilities, so the revised bill followed the “million solar roofs” ludicrous sizing restrictions, so any excess production would be basically accidental and TINY. Meanwhile, taxpayers and ratepayers are expected to open another vein for Big Solar, Big Wind and Big Transmission infrastructure we won’t own and which will destroy our open spaces (and force thousands of us from our property) – while utilities get guaranteed 10-15% ROI on infrastructure, plus profits from selling us our own sunshine back via their monopolies. It’s totally corrupt.

    So, you can see how what might have been a GREAT bill (with rates at 40- 50 cents, and TONS of power being produced democratically – within the built environment) may have been turned into another lip-service bill where we would probably get money-losing CPUC rates capped at actual usage, resulting in… no real FIT at all. Please tell me these things were corrected in the bill you are asking us to support?

    Again, although I am nervous about AB 920, I am very interested in your blog and hope to work with you on these critical issues! Thanks.

  4. OK, Greenius. I’m still back up in the middle of the post, wondering about the 1,2 punch because, as you know, the Gov. signed AB 920 into law on Sunday.
    “AB 811 is already law and here in L.A. County the money will be flowing to property owners in less than 12 months from that program.”

    I thought AB 811 was not in effect in LA. Help me out with that one.

    From the Greenius
    Solar Dude – I’ve already helped you out and written all about it. Use the “search” feature on my blog and punch in “AB 811”
    I do all the hard work researching, reporting from the scene and analyzing it for you but I can’t read them for you too!
    How much do you expect for free anyway?
    Maybe you should consider hiring me as a consultant at my normal rate and I’ll clue you in personally. But you’ll have to wait till after October 25 – I’m a little busy staging a big climate action party in Manhattan Beach. Perhaps you should join us there on October 24

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