Argument for a California Community Feed-in Tariff or ComFIT

By Paul Gipe

The solar, wind, and geothermal resources of the state of California are the people’s resource, and they should have a right to develop and own it. Today they are denied that opportunity. Californians—the citizens of California—are being left out of the boom in renewable energy. The right to develop and own renewable energy in California has been arrogated by Wall Street leasing companies and electric utility subsidiaries—many of which are foreign-owned–with the abject obeisance of the CPUC, the state legislature, and the Governor’s office.

With the announcement of increasing the state’s renewable target to 50%, the risk is imminent that ever more of the state’s renewable energy heritage will be in the hands of a few–forever. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to share the state’s bounty with its own citizens.

Of the current 33% renewable energy target, nearly all the contracts have been awarded to the CPUC’s favored few. They have had their time. They have their projects.

It’s now time for the rest of us.

The undeveloped portion of the new target should be set aside for locally- or community-owned projects. To make this possible, to enlist as many Californians as possible in building the state’s renewable future, it will be necessary to design a program that is open to all, easily understandable by all, and easy for all to participate in. The only mechanism suitable for such a comprehensive policy is a program featuring feed-in tariffs differentiated by technology and resource intensity.

It’s time California set aside the Governor’s new renewable target to be developed with a Community Feed-in Tariff, or ComFIT. Only citizens of California should be allowed to invest in, own, and profit from their renewable resource. They are the ones paying for renewable energy. They are the ones who will live with renewable energy for generations to come. It is only right that the citizens of California have the right to develop their own renewable resources for their personal benefit, the benefit of their communities, and the benefit of the state at large.