California’s solar net metering programme remains in place, with photovoltaic (PV) array owners facing a new interconnection fee and some other charges under a proposal by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The new costs include a one-time interconnection fee of between USD 75 (EUR 68.5) and USD 150, to reflect the costs for a utility to review and ensure that a net metering system interconnects safely to the grid. So far, that cost has been distributed among all utility customers.
The proposal, released on Tuesday, also includes non-bypassable charges of about USD 0.02-0.03 per kWh on all electricity that net metering customers consume from the grid. The proceeds from such charges are used to fund low income and efficiency programmes.
Another change planned by the PUC involves placing solar net metering participants on time-of-use rates. Thus the amount paid for electricity from the grid would be higher during periods of high demand. Under the proposal, net metering customers who sign up in 2018 or later must utilise time-of-use rates as soon as they sign up, while customers who sign up before 2018 must utilise time-of-use rates beginning when all residential customers go on default time-of-use rates in 2019.
California is the number-one solar state in the US, having surpassed 10 GW of installed capacity in the first quarter of 2015. As a result, many other states follow its example in terms of policy. The PUC will decide on the proposed measures for solar net metering customers at its voting meeting on January 28, 2016. If approved, they would take effect for new participants after the utilities’ existing net metering programme participation caps are met, or on July 1, 2017, whichever occurs first.
SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY), which accounted for 34% of all US residential solar installations in the first half of 2015, welcomed the PUC’s decision to continue California’s net metering policy. Still, it said the time-of-use rates proposal for new solar customers was concerning. “While these rates can send helpful signals about when to use electricity, we urge the PUC to closely examine the impacts of mandating time-of-use rates,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive.
Utilities in California, meanwhile, were disappointed by the measures as they were fighting for more significant changes, such as crediting solar net metering customers at about half the current rates. Utilities also demanded monthly fees based on the size of a solar system.
Steve Malnight, senior vice president, regulatory affairs, at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) commented: "Some solar company executives will say that the sky is falling if we make any changes but the truth is that solar's bright future will only be assured by moving forward with smart energy reform."
(USD 1 = EUR 0.914)
Choose your newsletter by Renewables Now. Join for free!