FERC rejects Winding Creek Solar complaint against Calif. PUC

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Aug. 12 rejected a complaint from Winding Creek Solar LLC, saying that the company can pursue its complaint in court if it so chooses.

“Our decision not to initiate an enforcement action means that the Petitioners may themselves bring an enforcement action against the California Commission in the appropriate court,” said the brief Aug. 12 decision.

On June 13, Winding Creek Solar filed a petition with FERC for enforcement against the California Public Utilities Commission under section 210(h)(2)(B) of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). Winding Creek asked the federal commission to initiate an enforcement action against the California commission to remedy part of the California commission’s feed-in tariff program, called the renewable market adjusting tariff, which Winding Creek alleged is inconsistent with PURPA.

In its July 3 answer, the California commission said that Winding Creek alleges no basis for any enforcement action. The petition challenges the CPUC’s recent decisions implementing amendments to California Public Utilities Code, which prescribes a renewable feed-in tariff (FiT) program at market prices for eligible renewable energy sources with a generation capacity of 3 MW or less. The CPUC decisions approve a standard form contract, with an avoided cost rate set through a market-price methodology based on the “renewable market adjusting tariff,” or “Re-MAT,” price for renewable energy procurement.

“The Petition reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of federal law, wrongly challenges the CPUC’s broad discretion in setting avoided cost rates, and wrongly attempts to challenge matters of State law,” the CPUC argued. “It is within the CPUC’s broad discretion to set an avoided cost rate using a market price as a benchmark, and based on State requirements for electricity procurement from particular renewable resources. The CPUC’s decisions are compliant with federal law, approve a standard contract, and do not address, much less ‘eliminate,’ Winding Solar’s ability to pursue a legally enforceable obligation with a utility….”

Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on Aug. 2 said in their own answer: “The California Utilities intend to correct the misimpression created by the attachments to the Winding Creek Answer that a long-term contract at a price based upon avoided cost calculated at the time of power purchase agreement (‘PPA’) execution is unavailable in California.”

Winding Creek is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business located at c/o Allco Renewable Energy Limited in New York City. It is developing a 1-MW solar project in Lodi, Calif. Its project has received all required permits needed for construction. The solar farm constitutes a “small power production facility” within the meaning of Section 210(l) of PURPA. The solar facility has been self-certified as a qualifying facility (QF) by FERC. It is also a “qualifying small power producer” within the meaning of Section 210(h)(2)(B) of PURPA, the company said in its June 13 petition.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.