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California regulator proposes change to net metering program

On April 11, the Chairman of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proposed a new approach to net metering in the state that has been praised by solar industry stakeholders.

Currently, a cap limits customers’ access to to the net metering program implemented in 1995. Customers can sell back excess energy from PV panels only until the capacity used by those customers exceeds five percent of the utility’s “aggregate customer peak demand.”

But solar advocates have argued that utilities are using a calculation that is very restrictive and leads to almost 50 percent less solar (and other renewable energy) than would otherwise be allowed. A group of solar industry supporters filed a suggestion for a new methodology to calculate five percent of “aggregate customer peak demand” that has been accepted by CPUC Chairman Michael Peevey.

Photo Credit: Go Solar California

“When we crafted California’s original net metering law, the goal was maximize the amount of clean distributed energy on the grid,” said former Assemblyman Fred Keeley, author of California’s net metering law.

“By proposing this methodology, the CPUC is complying with the original legislative intent and helping California lead the way toward a clean energy economy.”

“The PUC’s proposed decision is a positive step in maintaining the growth of solar in California by clarifying the amount of net metering allowed under current law,” said Joseph Wiedman, a partner at Keyes, Fox & Wiedman LLP who represents the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), one of the groups who proposed the new methodology.

The groups supporting the change argue that the less restrictive cap on net metering will increase renewable energy use in California, and lower energy costs for all.

“If adopted, this decision will ultimately allow more ratepayers to benefit from net metering — creating even more job growth in one of our state’s thriving industries while lowering costs for solar users and all energy customers,” said Wiedman.

“This is about choice,” said Vote Solar Initiative Executive Director Adam Browning. “Do we want to allow Californians to generate their own electricity using clean, renewable power or stay beholden to the utilities? Do we want to allow people to put panels on their own roof and get fair credit for that power? Schools across the state are already saving $1.5 billion on their electricity bills thanks to net metering. Do we want more of that, or less? This proposed decision comes down on the side of more.”

Peevey’s proposal will be considered by the entire Commission some time after the 30 day comment period.


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