SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proposed Monday to drastically cut the state’s solar energy incentive program, net energy metering. This program decides the way that solar customers are billed and how they are compensated for the extra electricity they provide back to the grid.
Under the proposal, a solar customer would be charged a new monthly fixed rate of $57 on average. That total would be the highest solar penalty in the country. During the first decade, a $15 credit would partially offset the fee, but that amount would then be phased out. Low income and commercial customers would not be subject to the monthly fee.
In addition, the commission proposed drastically cutting customer credits for the extra solar energy provided to the neighborhood to approximately 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) on all solar users, including schools and churches. This is an 80% reduction from the 20-30 cents per kWh credited today for residential customers.
The commission also reduced protections for existing solar customers. Notably, under current regulations, those who already have rooftop solar could not be subject to new rules for 20 years after a customer has installed rooftop solar panels. Under this proposal, that exemption would be cut to 15 years.
The CPUC proposed these cuts despite the fact that there were more than 120,000 comments from Californians, along with some 600 environmental, justice and consumer organizations and community leaders, and more than 50 local elected officials, urging the commission to protect and strengthen net metering.
The commission has scheduled a final vote on the future of net metering on Jan. 27 following a 30-day public comment period on the proposed decision and alternative proposals. If this proposal is adopted, changes would go into effect this spring.
Environment California Research & Policy Center’s report Rooftop Solar at Risk, which was released earlier this year and shared with CPUC commissioners, shows that sharply reducing net metering payments and imposing high, solar-only fixed charges could slow the growth of rooftop solar installations – and, in the most extreme cases, cause installations to plummet.
Environment California Research & Policy Center State Director Laura Deehan issued the following statement in opposition of the proposed regulations:
“In 2018 California chose a path to 100% clean and renewable energy, and that path requires a sustained commitment to growing rooftop solar. Instead the CPUC’s proposal is the equivalent of tying cement blocks to our ankles as we race to transition away from fossil fuels. State regulators calculate that to get to 100% clean energy, California needs at least 28 gigawatts (GW) of customer-sited solar by 2045; that’s nearly three times as much as we have today. The momentum that rooftop solar has now would help us reach our goal – but to gut net metering is to gut that momentum. The CPUC needs to put California’s climate change efforts first, ahead of the financial interests of the big utilities.
“Citizens of our state have made it clear that they want solar power. That’s why more than 120,000 Californians raised their voices in support of strong rooftop solar incentives including net energy metering. Now we have a tiny window to save rooftop solar. More than ever, we need Gov. Newsom to stand up and make sure that California continues our shining leadership as a rooftop solar state.”