California homeowners who install solar photovoltaic will receive financial credit based on a California Public Utilities Commission decision last week. The proposed decision continues the current policy of paying homeowners for generating solar energy in excess of the electricity they consume.
Administrative Law Judge Anne Simon proposed that a new net-energy metering program would continue the existing NEM structure while making some adjustments to align the costs of future NEM customers more closely with those of non-NEM customers. NEM sets up a billing system so that customers with solar panels get credit for the full retail value of the electricity their system generates.
In 2013, an Assembly bill directed the CPUC to ensure that all customers pay a fair share of costs, while encouraging renewable generation at customer sites.
Simon’s proposal would establish a one-time interconnection fee (likely about $75 to $100). Secondly, in the future, NEM customers would pay a non-bypassable charge, which all utility customers pay.
Non-bypassable charges fund low-income and efficiency programs. They are the equivalent of about 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy consumed.
The Solar Energy Industries Association applauded the CPUC’s proposal to preserve net metering. Maintaining net metering is key to California’s climate leadership and its clean-energy job growth, it said in a press release.
The proposed decision requires new NEM customers to use time-of-use rates. These rates are higher because they occur when electricity demand is highest. Customers who sign up in 2018 or later must use time-of-use rates as soon as they sign up, while customers who sign up before 2018 must use time-of-use rates beginning when all residential customers go on default time-of-use rates in 2019.
The proposed decision aims to develop two new programs where this renewable energy may be distributed among residential customers in needy communities. One program would provide financial incentives for multi-family buildings to install solar panels. The second would allow residential customers in disadvantaged communities, regardless of whether they own or rent, to participate in NEM even if they aren’t able to install a renewable energy system on their premises.
The proposed decision will be on the CPUC agenda at its Jan. 28, 2016, meeting.
“Should the commission vote to preserve net metering, the state will be taking a vital step toward meeting its climate goals, while allowing solar to reach a growing number of Californians,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of State Affairs.
California is No. 1 in the U.S. for installed rooftop solar. More than 450,000 systems have been installed, according to www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov/. “Recent research has shown that 65 percent of residential solar is being installed in communities with median incomes below $70,000, up from 49 percent in 2008,” according to SEIA.