In a first, the state’s grid operator has approved rules allowing companies to buy electricity from numerous homes and commercial power systems, and then bundle it up to meet a threshold needed to sell energy on the wholesale market.
Companies including utilities will be able to consolidate the output of rooftop solar systems, batteries and even plug-in electric vehicles, the California Independent System Operator Corp. said Thursday in a statement. The shift demonstrates that small-scale power sources are becoming a more critical part of the state’s energy mix.
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“This is an important win for California energy users,” said Ken Munson, chief executive officer of Sunverge Energy, which aggregates power from solar panels and batteries installed at homes and businesses. “It paves the way for consumers to play a more active role in the generation and distribution of the energy we use every day.”
Spurred by declining costs and leasing programs that offer installation with no upfront customer payments, residential solar has been the fastest-growing part of the California solar industry. It increased by 50 percent last year, outpacing utility-scale solar, which expanded 15 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Some Californians are already helping juice the grid by participating in utility programs that pay them for power from their solar panels that they don’t use, a service known as net metering. Those won’t be able to bid in the wholesale markets.
The move by the grid operator “could ultimately benefit providers of distributed solar, because it creates the opportunity for an alternative source of revenue outside of net metering,” said Madeline Yozwiak, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
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