Today the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously voted to give more Californians access to net metering credit for solar power. The 5-0 vote on a Proposed Decision will protect this important solar consumer right for tens of thousands of California homes, businesses and public buildings.
Solar policy victories don’t come easily – so today is truly a day to celebrate! Thanks to the hard work of organizations and solar companies across the state, not to mention the nearly 60,000 Californians who expressed their support for net metering, California will continue to be increasingly powered by the sun. Extra special thanks to Governor Brown and the Commissioners themselves for fighting so hard on behalf of this program.
Net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable clean power they put on the grid for others to use. It sounds like a no-brainer, but there is a cap on the amount of net metering that must be made available to customers. California’s law sets the cap at “5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand,” but does not specify how utilities should calculate that number. Consequently, utilities had been using a more restrictive methodology that would result in almost 50 percent less net metered solar and renewable energy than would otherwise be allowed. Today’s decision clarifies that utilities should use a cap calculation approach that results many more Californians having access to net metering benefits.
At today’s public hearing, we were especially glad to hear the Commissioners highlight the many benefits to the California economy and California energy grid of more rooftop solar. This important solar policy has already delivered tremendous benefits to California: supported 25,000 solar jobs, driven $10 billion in private investment in the state’s clean energy industry, given thousands of homeowners, schools, water districts, industrial users, and cities control over their electricity bills, and installed 2 natural gas plants worth of valuable peak solar power generation that our utilities won’t have to build and you won’t have to fund.
Commissioner Simon, himself a Bayview resident with friends and neighbors (and even a barber) with solar, also debunked the myth that solar energy is just for wealthy homeowners, saying “shame on you to whoever started those rumors.” Data from GRID Alternatives published on the Vote Solar blog this month backs Commissioner Simon assertions that solar is becoming more and more accessible to Californians of all income levels.
The Proposed Decision was amended the night before the vote to include a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of net metering – due to the utilities persistent claims that net metering is an unfair subsidy. We look forward to further study of the costs and benefits of this program, and believe the results will lead the Commissioners to the same conclusion as the Division of Ratepayer Advocates that the utilities ‘cost shift’ argument is a red herring and unsubstantiated.
In addition to the study requirement, there were some technical additions to the proposal that bear further review to make sure the state’s policy continues to achieve the goal that we all support – the long-term growth of solar as a mainstream energy resource in our state.
There is still work to be done – and we hope you’ll continue to help us along the way.
But today let’s celebrate a big step forward!