By Miriam Raftery
Photo: CC via Bing
November 11, 2022 (San Diego) -- The California Public Utility Commission today released a revised version of its Net Metering 3.0 proposal to regulate rooftop solar. The agency will hear testimony at a public meeting on Wednesday, November 16th and is slated to vote December 15th on the measure. If adopted, the new rules would take effect next April.
The scaled-back plan eliminates controversial consumer fees that had been criticized by solar advocates and by Governor Gavin Newsom, who appointed all five members of the CPUC. Critics says the CPUC’s original plan was harmful to the state’s goal of transitioning to renewable energy.
But the new plan will cost consumers money in another way – by reducing the amount of money utilities must pay homeowners who supply power to the grid.
The agency’s challenge is how to help the state meet its goal of reaching zero-carbon energy by 2045, and a 90% cut by 2035, without hurting low-income consumers or discouraging homeowners from going solar.
David Harris, renewable energy team leader of SanDiego350, a climate change advocacy group, issued this statement. "While SanDiego350 is relieved that the CPUC has abandoned its disastrous proposal for a rooftop solar tax, the revised proposal still cuts the rate paid to solar owners by 75%, which will dramatically reduce build out of rooftop solar and prevent California from achieving its renewable energy and climate targets.”
The group calls on the CPUC to withdraw this proposal and instead implement policies that quote “accelerate the just transition off of fossil fuels and enable communities of concern, who are least responsible for dangerous carbon emissions, to share equitably in the benefits of the clean energy revolution.”
Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for Affordable Clean Energy for All, represents 120 organizations including major utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric. She calls the changes “stark,” Cal Matters reports. Fairbanks adds, “It’s clear there was some influence.”
Specially, the revised rules would:
- Remove a proposed $8 per kilowatt monthly fixed solar tax on new residential systems.
- Cut utilities’ payments to homeowners for excess power they sell by up to 75% from current rates. The change would not apply to residents with existing solar systems, only those who add solar in the future.
- Fund $900 million in new incentive payments to help buy rooftop solar systems, with $630 million set aside for low-income households.
- Encourage installation of solar panels plus battery storage.
- Set lower rates aimed at shifting consumers’ use of power to times of day that improve grid reliability.
The CPUC is required under state law to update its net metering rules, which triggered a process that’s gone on for years.
Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association, said the proposed rules “would really hurt,” she says, Cal Matters reports. She predicts the newest proposal “needs more work or it will replace the solar tax with a steep solar decline.”
Net Metering policy was implemented in 1995 and established a framework for large utilities to buy excess energy from homeowners and supplement power to the grid. The program provided incentives to reduce the upfront costs of buying solar power systems.
The original proposal largely reflected the interests of the state’s three largest utilities. It was attacked by the solar industry, clean energy and consumer advocates.
The new proposal addresses the evolution of clean energy and its impact on the electric grid, pushing batteries to store solar power after dark. Officials say the rule would align state policy with a grid that is saturated with solar energy during the day, but overburdened with demand for power when the sun goes down.
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