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California Renewable Portfolio Standard Certification Process (7-CA-g)

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is responsible for certifying renewable energy electric generating facilities as renewables portfolio standard (RPS)-eligible. Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 399.11-399.32. California’s RPS sets a goal for retail sellers of electricity and local publicly owned electric utilities (POUs), collectively referred to as load-serving entities (LSEs), to increase the amount of renewable energy they procure until 33 percent of their retail sales are from renewable energy resources by 2020. Cal. Pub. Res. Code §§ 25740-25751; Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 399.11-399.32; Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.1. The CEC is required to certify electric generation facilities as eligible renewable resources that LSEs may use to satisfy their RPS procurement requirements, develop an accounting system to verify LSE’s compliance with the RPS, and adopt regulations specifying procedures for the enforcement of RPS procurement requirements of POUs. Cal. Pub. Res. Code §§ 25740-25751; Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 399.11-399.25(a); Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.1.


The CEC issues two types of RPS certification:

  • Certification : the facility has commenced commercial operations using an eligible renewable energy resource and complies with all applicable requirements of the Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook in place when the application is submitted; and


Renewable Portfolio Standard Certification Process Process

7-CA-g.1—Does the Facility Use One or More Eligible Renewable Energy Resources?

The CEC’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) certification of a facility means the facility is capable of producing electrical generation that may be used by a retail seller or publicly owned electric utility (POU) to satisfy its RPS procurement requirements. To qualify for RPS certification, a facility must use one or more eligible renewable energy resources identified by the CEC. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.5. There are a number of hydroelectric facilities that may be RPS-eligible, including:

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.14.

Note, there are certain limitations on RPS eligibility regarding generation units, including:

  • Electricity from the generating unit certified for the RPS by the CEC may only be used to satisfy the RPS procurement requirements of the retail seller or POU that procured electricity from the generation unit as of December 31, 2005. If multiple retail sellers or POUs procured electricity from the generation unit as of December 31, 2005, only the retail seller or POU that owned the generation unit as of December 31, 2005, may use electricity from the generation unit to meet its RPS procurement requirements, except as provided directly below;
  • A POU that meets the criteria of Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 399.30(j) may sell to another POU up to 100,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from all generation units certified for the RPS , and that electricity may be used by the POU that purchased the electricity to meet its RPS procurement requirements. Electricity from the certified generation units may be sold as bundled electricity (electricity bundled with the associated renewable energy credits (RECs)) or as just the RECs, and may be sold to multiple POUs, but the total of all such sales of bundled electricity and RECs must not exceed 100,000 megawatt hours; and
  • A POU that meets the criteria of Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 399.30(j) must report to the CEC all sales of electricity from generation units certified for the RPS to ensure compliance with the 100,000 megawatt-hour limit. The electricity sales must be reported to the CEC using the CEC-RPS-399 form.

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.16.

7-CA-g.2—Does the Facility Meet the Applicable Conditions of a “Project”?

A hydroelectric facility must meet the applicable conditions of a “project”. California defines a “project” as a “group of one or more pieces of generating equipment and ancillary equipment necessary to interconnect to the transmission grid that is unequivocally separable from any other generating equipment or components.” Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.81. For hydroelectric facilities under the Renewables Portfolio Standard Program, a “project” is two or more sets of generating equipment that are located within a one-mile radius of each other and are:

  • contiguous; or
  • share common control or maintenance facilities and schedules must constitute a single project, ‘’’except’’’ in the following circumstances:
  1. A conduit hydroelectric facility and not a small hydroelectric facility, may be considered a separate project even though the facility itself is part of a larger hydroelectric facility, provided that the larger hydroelectric facility commenced commercial operations prior to January 1, 2006, and the conduit hydroelectric facility that commenced commercial operations on or after January 1, 2006, does not cause an adverse impact on instream beneficial uses or cause a change in the volume or timing of streamflow, is separately metered to identify its generation, and is separately certified as RPS-eligible by the California Energy Commission (CEC). A conduit hydroelectric facility certified as a small hydroelectric facility may not be part of a larger project without considering the capacity of the entire project in the certification.
  2. A small hydroelectric generation unit with nameplate capacity not exceeding 40 megawatts that is operated as part of a water supply or conveyance system and satisfies the RPS eligibility criteria pursuant to California Energy Commission, Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, may be considered a separate project even though the generation unit itself is part of a larger hydroelectric facility.

The CEC will not consider the hydroelectric generation unit contiguous with other hydroelectric units within a one-mile radius that use the same impoundment as a water source for power generation if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The unit is physically separated from the other units and not located in the same powerhouse as the other units;
  • The delivery of water to the unit is provided by a separate penstock or conduit that does to supply water to the other units;
  • The unit releases water to a separate natural steam, canal, conduit, or other water conveyance that none of the other units release water to; and
  • Water released from the unit is not delivered, returned, or transferred to a natural stream, canal, conduit, or other water conveyance that receives water from the other units.

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook §II.F.1-Small Hydroelectric Facilities, p.15.

7-CA-g.3 — Register Facility with WREGIS

A developer must register the facility with the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS) before the CEC will accept an application for RPS certification. WREGIS tracks renewable energy generation from units that register in the system by using verifiable data and creating renewable energy certificates (REC) for this generation.

As part of the application process, explained below, the applicant (developer) must provide the CEC with the WREGIS generating unit identification numbers, for the facility. If any of the information about the facility that the developer provided to WREGIS differs from the information provided to the Energy Commission, the applicant (developer) must identify and explain the reasons for the discrepancies. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.24.

7-CA-g.4 — Comply with Metering Requirements

An applicant (developer) must ensure that the facility is using appropriate metering as required by Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook and WREGIS before applying for RPS certification. The developer must ensure that generation from the facility is measured using a meter or meters with an independently verified accuracy rating. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.29.

7-CA-g.5 to 7-CA-g.6 — Is the Project a New Small or Conduit Hydroelectric Facility, or Incremental Hydroelectric Facility?

A developer must also complete the hydroelectric supplemental form, CEC-RPS-1.S2 for “new small or conduit hydroelectric facilities or incremental hydroelectric facilities.” Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 15. A new small or conduit hydroelectric facility is a facility that:

All incremental facilities must complete the hydroelectric supplemental form, CEC-RPS-1.S2.


7-CA-g.7 to 7-CA-g.10— Is the Facility Required to Submit Additional Information with the Application?

The applicant (developer) must provide additional information to substantiate its application for a hydroelectric facility if the facility either:

  • Commenced commercial operations or was repowered on or after January 1, 2006, for small or conduit hydroelectric facilities;
  • Commenced commercial operations before January 1, 2007, for incremental generation from efficiency improvements, regardless of facility size;
  • Was added to an existing water conduit on or after January 1, 2006, for conduit hydroelectric facilities; or
  • Underwent efficiency improvements after January 1, 2008, incrementally increasing the generation of the facility, or the nameplate capacity.

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 19.

An applicant (developer) of these facilities must demonstrate that the facility does not cause an adverse impact on the instream beneficial uses. A facility could have an adverse impact on the instream beneficial uses if it causes an adverse change in the chemical, physical, or biological characteristics of the water, including a change in the volume, rate, timing, temperature, turbidity, or dissolved oxygen content of the stream water. Note, in accordance with Cal. Publ. Util. Code §399.12.5(d), a hydroelectric facility that is certified as RPS-eligible as of January 1, 2010, will not lose its eligibility if the facility causes a change in the volume or timing of streamflow required by license conditions approved pursuant to the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. §791a on or after January 1, 2010.

In addition, to demonstrating the facility does not have an adverse impact on the instream beneficial uses, the applicant (developer) must also submit the water-use data and environmental documentation described Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section II.F.5: Additional Information and Requirements for Select Hydroelectric Facilities as part of an application for RPS certification.

Hydroelectric Generation Unit Operated as Part of a Water Supply or Conveyance System

An applicant (developer) must also provide the additional documentation described below with a complete application for RPS certification to substantiate that the hydroelectric generation unit is operated as part of a water supply or conveyance system:

  • The current water supply permit issued by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), if applicable, or the equivalent from another state or local government agency;
  • The current hydroelectric project license, permits, or exemption from licensing from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), if applicable or the equivalent from another federal, state, or local government agency. If no FERC hydroelectric project licenses, permits, or exemptions were issued for the facility, the applicant (developer) must submit documentation explaining why the FERC project licenses, permits, or exemptions are not applicable to the facility; and
  • Documentation showing the water supply or conveyance system was built for the distribution of water for agricultural, municipal, or industrial consumption and operated primarily for this purpose.

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.17.

7-CA-g.11 — Application Materials

An applicant (developer) must submit the applicable complete application, supplemental forms, and additional required documentation (application materials) to the CEC. The developer may submit the application materials by mail, in person, or e-mail in accordance with Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section VII.A.5: Deadlines and Submission Dates. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.44. Upon receiving a properly submitted application, the CEC will send the applicant (developer) an e-mail confirming the receipt of the application. The e-mail will include the RPS identification number (ID) for the facility and the date the CEC deemed the application submitted. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.45. The CEC may request additional documentation to determine whether the facility meets the eligibility criteria to be RPS-certified. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.45.

Small Hydroelectric Facilities

To qualify for RPS certification, the applicant (developer) for a small hydroelectric facility must demonstrate that the facility:

  • Has a nameplate capacity of 30 MW or less; and
  • Satisfies one of the following:
  1. Commenced commercial operations on or before December 31, 2005, and a retail seller or POU procured the electricity from the facility as of December 31, 2005; or
  2. Commenced commercial operations after December 31, 2005, and the facility meets the additional requirements if specified in Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section II.F.5: Additional Information and Requirements for Select Hydroelectric Facilities, and also discussed above in 7-CA-g.7 to 7-CA-g.10.

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.15.

Conduit Hydroelectric Facilities

To qualify for RPS certification, the applicant (developer) for a conduit hydroelectric facility must demonstrate that the facility:

  • Has a nameplate capacity of 30 MW or less; and satisfies one of the following:
  1. Commenced commercial operations on or before December 31, 2005 ; or
  2. Commenced commercial operations after December 31, 2005, and the facility meets the additional requirements if specified in Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section II.F.5: Additional Information and Requirements for Select Hydroelectric Facilities, and also discussed above in 7-CA-g.7 to 7-CA-g.10.

A conduit hydroelectric facility must use the hydroelectric potential of an existing pipe, ditch, flume, siphon, tunnel, canal, or other man-made conduit that is operated to distribute water for a beneficial use and was built before January 1, 2008. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.15.

Hydroelectric Generation Unit Operated as Part of a Water Supply or Conveyance System

To qualify for RPS certification, the applicant (developer) for an existing hydroelectric generation unit operated as part of a water supply or conveyance system, must demonstrate the criteria below is satisfied:

  • The generation unit has a nameplate capacity not exceeding 40 MW, subject to the definition of “project” as discussed above;
  • A retail seller or local publicly owned electric utility (POU) procured electricity from the generation unit as of December 31, 2005;
  • The generation unit commenced commercial operations on or before December 31, 2005;
  • The generation unit is operated as part of a “water supply or conveyance system,” defined as the distribution of water through a tunnel, canal, pipeline, aqueduct, flume, ditch, and/or similarly constructed water conveyance that was built for the distribution of water for agricultural, municipal or industrial consumption, and operated primarily for this purpose;
  • The electricity generated by the generation unit is metered separately from any one generating units located at or within the same hydroelectric generation facility; and
  • An application to certify the generation unit for the RPS was submitted to the CEC before January 1, 2013.

Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.15; Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 399.12(e)(1).

Incremental Hydroelectric Facilities

When applying for RPS certification, an applicant (developer) must complete and submit the CEC-RPS-1.S4 Incremental Supplemental Form. The CEC will provide this form to WREGIS as part of the registration process if the facility is certified. In addition, for the incremental generation from a hydroelectric facility that underwent eligible efficiency improvements to qualify for RPS certification, the applicant (developer) must demonstrate that the following criteria are satisfied:

  • The hydroelectric facility was RPS-eligible as a small or conduit hydroelectric facility before the efficiency improvements were undertaken, and the efficiency improvements were undertaken after January 1, 2008. If the efficiency improvements cause an RPS-certified facility to exceed the 30 MW nameplate capacity, the facility must not lose its RPS eligibility; or
  • The nameplate capacity of the hydroelectric facility before completion of the efficiency improvements exceeded 30 MW. The incremental generation resulting from eligible efficiency improvements may qualify for the RPS if the additional requirements are met; and
  • The efficiency improvements to the hydroelectric facility are limited to improvements that make more efficient use of the existing water resource and improve the efficiency of equipment, rather than increase the storage capacity or head of an existing water reservoir. Efficiency improvements do not include regular or routine maintenance. Efficiency improvements may include, but are not limited to, rewinding or replacing the existing turbine generator, replacing the turbines, and computerizing control of the turbines, and computerizing control of the turbines and generators to improve operations.
  • The efficiency improvements do not result in an adverse impact on instream beneficial uses or cause a change in the volume or timing of streamflow.
  • The operation of the portions of the facility that include the efficiency improvements meet the additional requirements specified in if specified in Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section II.F.5: Additional Information and Requirements for Select Hydroelectric Facilities, and also discussed above in 7-CA-g.7 to 7-CA-g.10.
  • For incremental generation from a large hydroelectric facility that underwent efficiency improvements to qualify for RPS certification, the applicant (developer) must meet the following additional requirements and provide documentation, if requested:
  1. The facility is owned by a retail seller or a POU;
  2. The facility was operated before January 1, 2007;
  3. The efficiency improvements were initiated on or after January 1, 2008, were not included in any resource plan sponsored by the facility owner before January 1, 2008;
  4. The facility meets one of the following conditions, pursuant to Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section III.E: Incremental Generation.
  5. All of the incremental increase in electricity generation resulting from the efficiency improvements is the result of a long-term financial commitment by the retail seller or POU, either as a new ownership investment in the facility by the retail seller or POU, or a new or renewed contract with a term of 10 or more years, which includes procurement of the incremental generation.
  6. The incremental generation can be accurately determined consistent with the requirements in Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook Section III.E: Incremental Generation.

7-CA-g.12—Review Application Materials

The CEC will review the application materials for completeness, eligibility, and compliance with WREGIS and Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook. The CEC may require applicant (developer) to submit additional information or clarify information submitted in or with the application. The developer must submit requested information within sixty (60) days. If the developer does not submit the requested information within sixty (60) days, the CEC will return the application to the applicant as incomplete. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.46.

7-CA-g.13 —Does the CEC Approve the RPS Certification?

When processing applications, the CEC may determine RPS eligibility and compliance using any information or records submitted by the applicant (developer) or obtained as part of the application review or any audit, as described in Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, Section VII.B.3: Use and Disclosure of Information and Records. The CEC may only approve the generation for an application for a facility that meets the requirements of Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook. Additional energy resources used at the facility, or used in an ineligible manner, may not be included in the approval. Moreover, the CEC will deny applications for facilities clearly in violation of any requirements without review. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 46.

After review, the CEC will notify the applicant (developer) and the facility owner, if different, in writing of its determination on the application. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 46.

Note, if the CEC certifies a hydroelectric generation unit as part of a small hydroelectric facility, rather than individually pursuant to Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook §II.F.3- Hydroelectric Generation Unit Operated as Part of a Water Supply or Conveyance System, p.15-16, then the CEC will consider the capacity of the hydroelectric unit as part of the overall project in determining the capacity of the small hydroelectric facility.

7-CA-g.14 — RPS Certification

The CEC will issue a certificate stating the facility, or aggregated unit, is certified or recertified for the RPS in accordance with Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, Section IV.A: Applications.

In addition, a certified facility must remain registered with WREGIS, and meet certain reporting requirements.

7-CA-g.15 — Petition for Reconsideration or Appeal RPS Certification Decision (If Applicable)

If the applicant (developer) disagrees with the CEC’s determination on the application, the applicant may submit an amended application with addition information supporting the claim that the facility meets the RPS-eligibility requirements. If the applicant (developer) believes the information provided clearly demonstrates the facility is eligible for certification based on the criteria in the Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, the applicant may petition the CEC for reconsideration. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 46.

Applicants (developers) and awardees of RPS certification may appeal a CEC denial or revocation of RPS certification to the Commission, pursuant to Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25747.

Executive Director Reconsideration

An applicant (developer) or awardee may petition the Executive Director for reconsideration, if the CEC denied or revoked the RPS certification. The petition for reconsideration must be in writing and be submitted, together with any supporting documentation, to the Office of the Executive Director within thirty days of the date of the notice of RPS certification denial or revocation in accordance with Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, Section VII.C: Reconsideration of RPS Certification. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 72.

The petition must specify the basis of the appeal, state why the petitioner (developer) believes the RPS certification or revocation is improper given the eligibility criteria for RPS certification, explain any supporting documentation filed with the petition, identify any legal authority or other basis supporting the petitioner’s position, and identify the remedy sought. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 73.

Within thirty (30) days of receiving a complete petition, the Office of the Executive Director must issue a decision based on the petition and the written response of CEC staff. If petitioner disagrees with the decision of the Office of the Executive Director, the petitioner (developer) may appeal the decision to the CEC. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p. 73.

CEC Appeals

Within thirty (30) days of the date of the decision of the Office of Executive Director, the appealing party may file a letter of appeal to the CEC. 20 C.C.R § 1230, et seq. The letter o f appeal must include information specified in C.C.R. §1230(b). In place of the information specified in C.C.R. §1230(b), the letter of appeal must identify the eligibility criteria in the Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook that the appealing party believes were applied incorrectly in denying or revoking RPS certification. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.73.

7-CA-g.16 — Registration and Reporting Requirements

WREGIS Registration

A certified facility must remain registered in WREGIS and comply with all WREGIS rules, and all generation must be tracked in WREGIS to be considered RPS-eligible, with the limited exception of retroactive renewable energy credits. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.24. Failure to remain registered in WREGIS, or the inability to provide proof of registration in WREGIS upon request, may jeopardize the RPS certification of the facility. The applicant (developer) for the certified facility must notify the CEC in writing within ninety (90) days of the change in its status in WREGIS. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.25.

Reporting Requirements

A developer for a certified RPS facility using multiple resources must accurately measure the annual contribution of each energy resource used at the facility. The developer then must maintain and report this information to the CEC annually to retain the certification of the facility. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.30.

Any electricity considered for the RPS, including electricity from any additions or enhancements to a facility, must be measured by the same meter or meters used to report generation to WREGIS. Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, at p.29.

Further, some developers must report to THE CEC annually on the operations of the facility and load-serving entities must report retirement of RECs for the California RPS. For more information see, Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, Section V: Annual Facility Reports; Renewables Portfolio Standard Eligibility Guidebook, Section VI: Annual Load-Serving Entity Reports.




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