CalCAN collaborates with other agriculture advocates, environmental organizations and clean tech businesses to remove barriers to on-farm renewable energy production and to ensure that agriculture plays a constructive role in helping meet the state’s clean energy and climate protection goals in cost-effective ways for farmers and ranchers.
Good News! Governor Brown Signs SB 594 into Law!
Sept. 27, 2012
California farmers, school districts and commercial energy users got a boost today with the Governor Brown’s signing of Senate Bill 594, which removes barriers to on-site renewable energy production. The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a coalition of sustainable agriculture organizations, supported the bill.
Senate Bill 594, authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), will allow Net Energy Metering (NEM) customers to aggregate the electrical load of their meters. The new law will ease the production of small-scale distributed renewable energy production in the state.
“California farmers produce more renewable energy on their farms and ranches than their counterparts in other states, but obstacles still exist,” said Jeanne Merrill Policy Director with CalCAN. “The Governor’s action today moves us closer to developing more on-farm renewable energy production throughout California.”
Farmers and ranchers typically have multiple meters on their property. Current California law prohibits the power generated from an on-site renewable facility to be counted against other meters. Consequently, farmers would have to install a separate facility for each meter, which is extremely inefficient and cost prohibitive; thus limiting their ability to cost-effectively generate renewable energy. Senate Bill 594 addresses this issue and eliminates the need for multiple facilities.
“The Governor just made it easier and more affordable for growers like me to produce renewable energy,” said Russ Lester, owner of Dixon Ridge Farms in Winters, CA. “California agriculture can help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce clean energy. Senate Bill 594 is an important step forward.”
Senate Bill 594 will move California closer to meeting the Governor’s goal of 12,000 megawatts of distributed renewable energy generation in the state.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
Renewable Energy Equity Act (SB 489)
On October 8, 2011 SB 489 became law in California. This CalCAN-sponsored bill will make it easier for farmers and ranchers to develop innovation renewable energy projects by allowing them to easily and effectively get those projects connect to the grid. The Renewable Energy Equity Act will help California produce homegrown clean, renewable energy and reduce our state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
We are deeply grateful for the leadership of the author, Senator Lois Wolk, and her very capable staff for understanding the importance of this bill for California farmers and for the state’s renewable energy goals. Two other leaders on the issue are Russ Lester and Jenny Lester-Moffitt at Dixon Ridge Farms who have led the field with innovations in producing heat and electricity by gasifying walnut shells. Justin Malan (Ecoconsult) and Karen Mills (California Farm Bureau) also made this victory possible.
Two examples of the type of agriculture renewable energy projects that will benefit from the Renewable Energy Equity Act:
1. Russ Lester at Dixon Ridge Farms, producer and processor of organic walnuts near Winters, uses walnut shells as the feedstock to produce electricity to power his freezers (used to keep the walnuts fresh and kill insect pests) and heat from the gasification process to dry the walnuts. Dixon Ridge has not been able to get their small-scale bioenergy project connected to the grid and credited for the energy they produce. Under SB 489, Dixon Ridge Farms will be credited on the farm’s utility bill for the renewable energy produced. See: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201108250850/a
2. Straus Family Dairy in Marin County installed a methane biodigester that produces electricity to power the dairy operation and their electric vehicles. SB 489 would enable these kinds of small-scale biogas projects to tie into the grid. Here is a short video about Straus Dairy’s renewable energy project: http://vimeo.com/15641142
SB 489 opens California’s Net Energy Metering Program to all eligible forms of renewable energy. This will allow agricultural businesses to do these things:
- More easily and economically convert agricultural waste into clean renewable energy;
- Help reduce the need for new power plants and transmission infrastructure;
- Save money on their power bills.
Expanding the program will also help the state reach both its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and also its renewable energy goals.
Agricultural Energy Consumers Association
Agriculture Council of California
Almond Hullers & Processors Association
California Alliance for Family Farms
California Certified Organic Farmers
California Climate and Agriculture Network
California Compost Coalition
California Farm Bureau Federation
California Grain & Feed Association
California Refuse Recycling Council
California Rice Commission
California Seed Association
California Warehouse Association
Californians Against Waste
Center for Land-Based Learning
Clean World Partners
Clover Flat Landfill
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Dixon Ridge Farms
Ecological Farming Association
Environmental Defense Fund
Food & Water Watch
Full Belly Farm
Full Circle Dairy
Marin Sanitary Service
Morris Grassfed Beef
National Center for Appropriate Technology
Okuye Almond Farm
Pacific Egg & Poultry Association
Pena’s Disposal Company
Planning and Conservation League
Rich Rominger, Farmer, Secretary California Department of Agriculture
Roots of Change
Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture & Education Project
Solano County Board of Supervisors
Sustainable Agricultural Education
Swanton Berry Farms
Travaille and Phippen, Inc
Upper Valley Disposal Service
Yolo County Board of Supervisors
California is seeking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with over a quarter of those reductions coming from the energy sector, and has adopted a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard goal. However, while renewable energy has grown, it has not kept pace with the overall increase in energy demand in California from 1997 through 2009.
To help spur renewable energy production the state has adopted several programs; however, significant obstacles continue to block the development of new community-scale, decentralized renewable power production. Specifically, limitations within California’s NEM program are preventing cost-effective, clean renewable power from connecting to the grid.
The current NEM program is only open to wind or solar power generators. Only those generators can take advantage of the program’s streamlined approached to getting renewable energy on line quickly. Connecting all other forms of clean renewable energy to the electric grid requires going through the longer, more arduous, and very expensive Feed-In-Tariff process. It also prohibits combining different types of renewable power.
For smaller energy producers, the costs incurred by this longer process often outweigh the benefits of the renewable power generation. For example, Dixon Ridge Farms, an organic walnut operation, has not been able to connect its innovative bioenergy project, fueled by walnuts shells, to the grid. SB 489 proposes to allow all small-scale eligible renewable energy producers to participate in the NEM program, offering them a cost-effective way to save money, more easily connect to the grid and produce clean power. Making this easier for farmers and others will help California reach its energy and environmental goals.