State Preserves Consumer Choice in Solar and Rejects Utility Attempts to Kill Net Metering
San Francisco—The California Public Utilities Commission officially voted today to extend net metering for solar customers indefinitely. In its 3-2 vote, the Commission firmly rejected proposals from the utilities to replace net metering with complicated schemes that would have put solar out of reach for most consumers. This decision puts California in stark contrast to neighboring states, such as Nevada, which recently went in the opposite direction, shutting down the rooftop solar industry there.
“We all know that California is a world leader when it comes to being ‘green’,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “But today’s vote is more than that. It is about California continuing to champion innovation and a different way of doing things, in this case, building a smarter energy grid and allowing individual consumers to generate their own clean electricity.”
Under the proposed decision, the utility meter will continue spinning backward at full retail rates for solar customers when they are generating more electricity than they are using, but a new fee will partially offset the value of those credits. Solar customers will be required to pay increased charges for upkeep of the grid as well as public purpose programs like energy efficiency rebates and low-income bill assistance.
“The Commission agreed that tying solar credits to retail rates is important because it is simple and proven effective,” said CALSEIA Policy Director Brad Heavner. “In the debate over net metering that is flaring up in states across the country, California has said yes to continuing net metering and that’s very significant.”
The new rules also create an application fee of up to $150 and requires residential solar customers to be on “time-of-use rates” that vary depending on the time of day. Commercial and agricultural customers are already on mandatory time-of-use rates.
“The utilities are upset because they weren’t successful at killing rooftop solar like some of their counterparts in other states have done, but the Commission determined that net metering should change only gradually,” added Del Chiaro. “This decision takes significant steps to change net metering over time, but we are confident it will maintain the opportunity to go solar for most types of customers.