David Roberts wants to see distributed generation taken seriously. He’s getting his wish.

Let the era of solar wholesale distributed generation begin.

Last Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a resolution to implement the auction portion of Southern California Edison’s Distributed Generation PV program. This is a big deal–the door is now open for a competitive bidding process for 250 MW of solar photovoltaics from independent solar developers (of 1 to 2 MW in size, 90% of which must be rooftop) over the next few years. First auctions should begin in the next month or two.

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More importantly, this is the beginning of what will be a wave of wholesale distributed generation in the state.

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To recap, almost 2 years ago, SCE applied to regulators for permission to build and own 250 MW of distributed solar. Solar advocates made the argument that this should be conditioned on opening market opportunity for independent solar developers to provide the same value to ratepayers–and in the end, the Commission agreed. The final decision required SCE to buy an equal amount–250 MW–from independent solar developers (for a combined total of 500 MW). Decision here.

(For the curious or masochistic, all docs in proceeding here ).

Importantly, much work on the auction process and standard contract terms and conditions were worked out last fall. This is a key element. Drafts available here but were modified (mostly for the better) by the final decision.

Pacific Gas and Electric has proposed a similar program, which should wrap up by February. With a lot of issues worked out in the SCE process, once (if) approved, PG&E’s program should be able to launch fairly quickly. This is another 500 MW (250 utility owned, 250 from independent power producers, in the 1-20 MW range).

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In the same vein, the Administrative Law Judge on the proposed 1 GW market-based feed-in tariff could decide shortly (knock wood), and if there are no bumps from the trajectory that the staff proposal laid out, a functional program for 1 GW of 1-10 MW sized renewables over the next four years could be launched before summer.

Total, that’s at least 2 GW over the next few years. But I expect that more will come in under the state’s regular RPS process, and as (or, if) these programs prove successful, they can be modified and increased.

Success begets success.