KEHOE BILL WOULD STOP SDG&E EFFORT TO HIKE SOLAR RATES UP TO 600%

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Petition drive launched to support Kehoe measure set for hearing April 24

By Miriam Raftery

April 18, 2012 (San Diego) – State Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) has introduced SB 1537 to halt efforts by utiliy companies to jack up rates on solar energy producers as much as 600%. 

Daniel Sullivan, president of Sullivan Solar Power in San Diego, says that utilities in alifornia have "launched an offensive on solar producers led by San Diego Gas and Electric. SDG&E has unfairly targeted commercial solar producers by proposing to increase the demand electricity rates they pay by as much as 600%, but only increasing the demand rates on non-solar producers by a mere 52%," he said. To prevent the utilities from derailing our State’s renewable energy goals, Senator Kehoe is introducing SB 1527, which is set for hearing in Sacramento on April 24.

The utility industry is mustering strength to kill the bill.  Supporters of solar energy, meanwhile, have launched an online petition drive to support SB 1527:  http://www.change.org/petitions/the-ca-state-senate-oppose-sdg-e-s-attack-on-the-solar-producers

Under the California Solar Initiative, incentives for  installing solar systems have been provided up-front for homeowners as well as industrial, commercial, government, nonprofit and agricultural properties in the service areas for SDG&E, PG&E and Southern California Edison.  The “Million Solar Roofs” vision aimed to install 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016. California currently is well on the way, with 1,164 MW installed to date.

That’s a $7 billion investment made by public and private property owners in solar photovoltaic. Those who invested did so with the belief that they could recoup costs over time.  Now, some investors including school districts, water districts and local governments could find themselves upside down on long-term financing of solar projects if the utilities’ proposal to hike solar rates is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

A typical solar user would see an increase of 40% or more, with up to 600% hikes on large solar producers.  By contrast, only a 6% to 52% hike would be seen by non-solar producers. 

Kehoe’s bill would prohibit utility companies from hiking rates and charges for solar producers more than the rates for other customers.

The PUC has already rejected another proposal by SDG&E that would have charged solar producers for exporting power to the grid.

SDG&E had previously proposed a network use charge intended to recover a portion of distribution costs from net energy metering customers, but in March a CPUC Commissioner removed that proposal from the proceeding.