California TRECs – Making a Comeback

Posted September 13th, 2010 by SRECTrade.


On August 25th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a Proposed Decision (PD) to lift the moratorium on Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) utilizing Tradable Renewable Energy Credits (TRECs) to meet California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). In addition to allowing IOUs to use TRECs for RPS compliance purposes, the CPUC’s PD increased the initial 25% TREC limit to 40%. Based on the petitions submitted by the IOUs and the Independent Energy Producers Association (IEP), the CPUC decided to take the IOUs’ points into consideration and increase the cap to 40% of the annual procurement targets. The utilities argument for increasing the cap was based on the thought that accessing a larger market for renewables will lead to a reduced overall cost.

The CPUC has maintained a December 31, 2011 expiration date for the 40% cap. Additionally, the temporary $50 limit of payments for TRECs is to remain in place through the same time period. The CPUC notes that at this point in time both the cap and the price limit are set to expire unless the CPUC takes action to extend or modify it.


The Proposed Decision will not be on the CPUC’s voting meeting agenda for at least 30 days from the date the PD was issued.

What this means for CA SRECs

Although the implementation of a TREC market in California is a step in the right direction for SRECs, it does not provide the same market dynamics created by a RPS solar carve out as implemented in the other SREC states. Typically, in a general REC program, as structured by the CPUC, larger capacity renewable energy projects, such as wind, dominate the market. Additionally, the current guidelines instituted by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and CPUC on RPS project eligibility do not include customer-side distributed generation (i.e. the majority of residential and commercial rooftop solar systems).

The CEC RPS eligibility guidebook states that both the CEC and CPUC play a role in determining RPS implementation for renewable distributed generation (DG) facilities. The good news is that both the CPUC and CEC allow system owners to retain 100% of the RECs associated with the energy produced even if the owner has participated in a ratepayer-funded program such as the CPUC’s California Solar Initiative (CSI) or the CEC’s New Solar Homes Partnership program. The bad news is that these systems are considered DG facilities and are not RPS eligible unless the CPUC authorizes TRECs to be applied to the RPS.

Now you might be thinking that the proposed decision issued by the CPUC is good news for distributed generation solar, but unfortunately like a lot of things in the REC world it isn’t that clear cut. The PD issued by the CPUC states that, “although there are technologies that can be used for customer-side renewable DG, most current installations are not in fact RPS-eligible because they have not been certified by the CEC.” Seems like a circular argument, but this is what the most recent documents state. The PD goes on to provide similar detail as the CEC that states, “in anticipation of the eventual use of customer-side DG for RPS compliance” the system owner will maintain full control over the RECs associated with their renewable energy generation.

Based on both the PD issued by the CPUC and the revised CEC RPS eligibility guidebook it appears that the groups intend to incorporate distributed generation into the RPS compliance program, but are not ready to make the commitment at this point in time. This appears to follow in line with the process California has taken in implementing a REC market. As indicated by our guest blogger, David Niebauer, California has taken its time in launching a REC program; SB 107 was passed in 2006 and gave the CPUC express authority to use TRECs for RPS compliance. It appears that the CPUC and CEC want to get a feel for how the existing structure of the TREC market will play out before approving DG projects or potentially creating a DG/Solar carve out.

Implementing a CA SREC Program

But couldn’t the CPUC and CEC approve distributed generation projects, create a carve out for these technologies, and slowly increase or reevaluate the requirements over time? From our perspective this would be great and act as a catalyst to continue pushing residential and commercial solar in the state of California. Not only would a solar carve out help increase the generation of renewable electricity, New Jersey is second to California in solar installations, but it would help push a strong solar economy in California. In the PD, the Alliance for Retail Energy Markets (AReM) states that, “…CSI will have provided incentives for approximately 1,100 GWh by 2011.” Based on 2008 electricity figures, 1,100 GWh equates to approximately 0.4% of California’s total electricity sales. This is 0.4% that will not be counted towards meeting California’s RPS targets. Hopefully the CPUC and CEC will consider the implementation of a solar/distributed generation carve out and help drive a strong solar industry in California while achieving the RPS requirements CA’s IOUs are required to meet.

CA RPS Eligible Solar

Solar systems that do not fall into the customer-side DG category may be RPS eligible and could be qualified to participate in the CA TREC market.

We are constantly staying on top of developments in the CA market and are currently working on solutions for both CA RPS eligible and ineligible solar generating units. For more information please contact us at 877-466-4606 or

For access to the CPUC Proposed Decision click here. For access to the revised, draft CEC Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility guidebook click here.


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