The decision is based on both green justice and social justice principles, so expect failure to ensue.
California utility regulators have just made significant changes to rules applied to the state’s rooftop solar market, saying that the moves will ensure solar-powered homes contribute their “fair share” to maintain the power grid.
The state has long led the nation in adoption of rooftop solar panels, and today more than 1.5 million California homes and other buildings have them. Under a decades-old program, people with solar panels can get paid by their power companies by sharing excess solar energy they don’t need, leading some solar homes to pay minimal electric bills.
That’s led to criticism that rooftop solar customers aren’t paying their fair share into the rest of the energy grid, which many still rely on for power when the sun goes down. Power rates also include things like transmission equipment and wildfire prevention work, and regulators approve a set amount of money that utilities can recover from customers.
As this is California, there were also social justice reasons for the change.
Utilities and consumer groups have argued the incentive payments have unfairly favored wealthier consumers and harmed poor and low-income households. But solar companies and renewable advocates have said that lowering the compensation would slow solar installations and hinder the state’s goals to address climate change.
The proposal, which California utility regulators unveiled last month, will change a net metering policy by paying solar owners for extra power at a lower rate, which is determined by the cost the utility would need to spend to purchase clean power from an alternative source. The solar industry has said the plan would amount to a 75% cut in average payment rates to customers.
Today’s unanimous vote by the five-member commission was monitored across the country, since California is widely viewed as a leader in the renewable energy buildout. The impact of today’s decision will likely extend beyond the state and have implications for the solar industry nationwide…
The power buy-back was a big selling point for homeowners to purchase and maintain solar panels. During the public comment period, this point was made several times.
Before the vote, the commission had a time for public comment, where Californians could call in. The overwhelming majority of the dozens of callers said they wanted to keep the old incentive structure in place.
The callers argued cutting the compensation payment would stifle the growth of rooftop solar because homeowners and businesses would decide that solar panels are no longer worth the investment.
“I’m strongly opposed to the CPUC’s proposed changes that would make it more expensive for everyday people to put solar panels on their roof,” said caller Carol Weiss from Sunnyvale, “My husband and I are both retired and we would never have invested in rooftop solar under these proposed rules.”
After about three hours of public comment, the commission voted unanimously to approve the proposal changing the incentive system.
Part of the decision was also based on green-justice principles to force solar panel owners to invest in very expensive batteries for energy storage…reducing the reliance on those dreaded fossil fuels.
[Matt Baker with the Public Advocates Office for the California Public Utilities Commission] said one of the purposes of the new regulations is to incentivize the purchase of battery-powered storage systems alongside rooftop solar by offering significantly higher amounts of money to purchase power generated by batteries at night.
“[Homeowners] can do two things with the battery: you can offset your own costs, which tend to be much higher because we have tiered rates in the evening, or you can export it to the grid.”
“And if you export it to the grid in the evening, you would get between $0.40 and $1.”
It’s much more than the $0.05 to $0.10 per kilowatt-hour that homeowners will be paid for the power generated by their solar panels during the daytime. But during the California Public Utilities Commission virtual meeting on Thursday, dozens of people spoke out in opposition to the new regulations.
“Batteries are too expensive right now. You’ll limit new installations to either the rich or the subsidized. The middle class will be cut out.”
As this decision is based on both green justice and social justice principles, expect failure to ensue.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.