As California looks to meet its 100% clean energy goal cost-effectively and reliably, distributed generation (DG) and storage will play a central role. It is imperative that California prioritize solar accessibility for all and continue compensating the solar customers for the resilient clean energy they deliver to the grid.
On Monday, three major investor-owned utilities – San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric – have proposed amendments in the state’s 2.5-decade old rooftop-solar program. If allowed, it would lead to new connection charges and lower compensation for customers who install solar panels on their roofs. Stocks of several solar installers fell on Tuesday amid the above concern.
In the proposal, utilities have asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to allow them to charge a monthly fee from customers, who have solar panels on their roofs. The fee consists of a flat charge and a “grid access” charge per kilowatt. Even more disturbing is that the utilities also want to reduce the rate from the system known as “net metering” that pays solar users for the power they send back to the grid during the day. The utility companies also gave an atypical condition that these new rules would be imposed on new customers, not existing ones.
Scott Crider, SDG&E’s Chief Customer Officer said, “The structure to compensate solar customers is in desperate need of reform.” In the proposed amendment, utility companies complain that net energy metering results in a “cost-shift” that unfairly burdens customers who do not have solar installations at their homes and businesses.
Advocates of solar energy, while filing their own propositions, expressed that the alleged amendment, will weaken the industry’s growth. “The real issue at hand is not so much a ‘cost-shift’ as the utilities claim but a ‘power shift’ from utility to consumers and small businesses” who install solar.
“California is a solar state, but the utilities want to own the sun and keep it out of the hands of everyday people,” Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar and Storage Association.
Utilities, while pitching against solar energy, should not ignore the fact that it is the distributed energy from various small and medium rooftop systems that helps lower strain on the grid. It is solar energy that helps consumers by minimizing the need to buy electricity during high times of demand. Furthermore, it is solar energy that is assisting the state in achieving its reduced greenhouse gas emission goals.
Under the California utilities’ proposal, new rooftop-solar customers who send excess power back to the grid would receive a lower credit on their bills than the rate that current solar users get. So far, these are just proposals, and solar operators have also presented their own plans.
You’ve waited long enough. It is the right time to go solar. Before your utility company succeeds enforcing anything, Act Now! Call Staten on 408-780-2889.