Glendale Community Solar Program

Glendale Water & Power (GWP) presented their proposed budget for the Public Benefit Charge (PBC) in a special city council budget meeting on May 8th.  The PBC is a state mandated tax on our electric bills that goes into a separate account that is to be spent on things that will be benefit the public in general around energy usage.

Items in this budget include things like solar panel subsidies, efficient appliance rebates, and bill discounts for low income households among other things. Here’s the 2017-2018 budget to give you an idea of the programs.

Budgeted for 2019 is $1 million for Community Solar. Community Solar is a term for putting solar on a public building or over a parking lot and then selling the generated solar to community households who cannot put solar on their own building (ie: renters, people who can’t afford solar, people who live in buildings in shade). This is a great idea.

Also budgeted for 2019 is $2.3 million for a $15/mo discount on low-income households’ bills. Roughly 15% of Glendale households are on this program (12,750 households) which is better than the statewide average of 33%.

Glendale can do better than this. Instead of just giving discounts on bills, GWP could build Community Solar for low income customers. Not only would this give low-income households a discount on their bill but for the same money it would build a public asset for Glendale. Also, dollar for dollar putting the money into Community Solar gives a 17% bigger discount to these households.

Here’s how it works. In the first year, the $1 million for Community Solar builds a .54 Megawatt (MW) solar panel installation. The energy generated from these panels gives 721 households a $15/mo discount on their bills. Then in year two, the money set aside for those 721 households in the low-income discount budget is transferred to the Community Solar budget and that $1.1 million builds .61 MW of solar and helps another 816 households. This continues, year after year, until by year 10 all of the low income households are on Community Solar and the budget for the low-income subsidy is eliminated. After year 10, the Community Solar budget maxes out at $3.3 million and continues adding 1.78 MW of solar per year which GWP can offer to everyone in the community for purchasing solar at a discounted rate.

Low Income Community Solar Budgets
Chart showing Low-income Subsidy and Community Solar budgets

So in ten years, all low income customers are getting a discount and have been all along and GWP is producing 17,034 MWh of local renewable energy. Additionally, I’ve factored into the calculation a 2% annual increase in the cost of electricity and an increase in the subsidy. So by 2029, the subsidy has increased up to $18 per month per household.

The Community Solar program means a reduced load on the system. This means a smaller power plant is required. If the solar is put onto fire stations and schools and combined with energy storage then the system could be providing emergency backup services for critical infrastructure.

This plan requires no additional money from the city. It’s already in the proposed budget. The City Council only needs to require that the Community Solar goes first to eligible low-income households and that the budget for the low income households subsidy transfers to the Community Solar budget as customers move to Community Solar.

City Council is voting on the Public Benefit Charge budget soon. Please contact them and ask them to support the Low-Income Community Solar program.

Here’s a spreadsheet of the numbers that allows you to play around with the numbers if you want to dig a little deeper.