Proposed changes to solar metering shake California's solar industry

Rooftop solar array. Featured Image: Ralf Gosch/Shutterstock.com

March 17 (Renewables Now) - Three investor-owned utilities in California have proposed changes to the state’s net metering policy entailing a monthly fee for owners of home solar systems and a reduction of the credit for power sent back to the grid.

The plan was put forward this week by utilities Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE), which insist that the proposed changes address the drawbacks of the current net energy metering (NEM) scheme and create “a modern and equitable distributed generation program.”

The major pillars of the proposal call for eliminating subsidies for new adopters of distributed generation solar systems and introducing a net billing core tariff, while cutting the credit that consumers get for feeding excess electricity back to the grid. Additionally, monthly true-ups are introduced to replace the annual ones, which allow consumers to carry their unused credits from month to month.

The utilities say that NEM customers avoid paying grid, generation, policy mandates and customer service costs, which are applied to non-solar system owners through volumetric rates. “Under the current NEM structure, NEM customers are able to avoid paying for those costs with offsetting energy credits priced at the full retail value,” they state.

The proposal was met with a massive backlash by solar campaigners and industry agencies that protect consumers. According to the California Solar + Storage Association (CALSSA), the proposal will make solar an unaffordable option for most low- and middle-income consumers and stall the state’s economy in the post-pandemic setting.

“Solar roofs save everyone money, not to mention build a more resilient grid, but they cut into utility profits. Utilities are trying to blame their huge structural shortcomings on consumers and small businesses,” commented Bernadette Del Chiaro, CALSSA’s executive director.

CALSSA says the proposal could lead to a monthly fee of USD 78 for a typical residential consumer wanting solar power on the roof, while the connection charge for non-residential systems, such as these schools build, will be huge.

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Veselina Petrova is one of Renewables Now's most experienced green energy writers. For several years she has been keeping track of game-changing events both large and small projects and across the globe.

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