Utilities’ Attempt to Block Solar Tariff Rebuked in Commission Resolution
San Francisco—The California Public Utilities Commission approved a resolution last Tuesday denying all legal challenges to recently adopted net metering rules for solar customers.
In January, the CPUC issued a decision to create the net metering “successor tariff,” which did not accept the new fees and low compensation rates proposed by the utilities. The decision made significant changes, with increased assessment of non-bypassable charges and mandatory TOU rates for residential customers, but it left in place the fundamental structure of NEM.
The utilities responded by filing “applications for rehearing,” which allege that the decision contained legal error by ignoring many of the utilities’ arguments. PG&E’s application challenged the decision as a whole. The application from SCE and SDG&E challenged certain aspects. A ratepayer group, TURN, and a coalition of utility unions also challenged parts of the decision.
The CPUC resolution rejects those legal challenges. It made two minor tweaks to the language of the decision but did not change any elements of the order.
“This was a frivolous legal maneuver by utilities, paid for by ratepayers, and the Commission has put an end to it,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association.
The utilities have the option to appeal to state court, but it is unlikely they will do so because the chances for success are extremely low.
“Hopefully the utility harassment of the CPUC is over,” said Del Chiaro added. “They didn’t get everything they wanted and it’s time to move on.”
Attention is now focused on the precursor activity to creating the next version of net metering. The CPUC has again hired the E3 consulting firm to build the next version of a solar cost-benefit model. The methodology will likely be debated for two years. The main question at issue is the extent to which utilities can incorporate distributed generation into their forecasting and spend less money on the distribution grid. The CPUC will take up NEM again in 2019.