The recent amendments made to net metering in California are causing a major setback to the solar industry in the state. Net-metering, which has been instrumental in driving the growth of rooftop solar in California, rewards households with solar systems for excess energy they send back to the grid.
“The NEM-driven market has become California’s No. 1 and fastest growing form of renewable energy,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA), a trade group representing residential installers.
Unfortunately, the recent changes have reduced the amount received by solar installers for the energy they sent back, thus making it difficult for smaller local installers to compete with bigger players.
The bigger players, who have invested in energy-storage products for years, have already launched fresh offerings that pair solar and batteries to compete in the new policy regime.
However, smaller local installers lack the resources to follow suit. They do not have the purchasing power to buy bulk orders of increasingly sought-after batteries, and the independent door-knockers that power the solar sales cycle lack training for a nuanced battery pitch that reflects the complexity of California’s new rules.
Despite the challenges, solar + storage remains the best option available for Californians to save on their energy bills. California desperately needs all the clean energy it can find to power through the evening hours on hot days, and rooftop solar is a key part of this solution.
Regulators have called for a staggering 86 gigawatts of new clean capacity to be built by 2035, and in the last two years, residential and commercial solar installers added more clean capacity than all the utility-scale solar projects in the state.
However, the recent changes to net metering have thrown the industry into turmoil, making it even more challenging to do business in California. Some members of the California Solar and Storage Association have even closed up shop in California and focused elsewhere due to the new rules. The addition of batteries also adds far more complexity to a deal, requiring a specialized workforce which leads to the added cost to the project.
One challenge with storage is that it is expensive, with leading systems in the $10,000 range. It’s a lot to ask a customer to spend $15,000 or more on solar and then $10,000 or more on storage. Nevertheless, solar + storage remains the best option for Californians to save on their energy bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Cogent industrial policy recognizes that sudden shocks aren’t good for business. But when the regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission finalized new rooftop solar rules for the state in mid-December, they only gave the industry until April before the changes kicked in.
“We are in completely uncharted territory,” said Bernadette. By that, she means the industry has never seen a regulatory change this extensive or complicated.
In conclusion, we must work towards finding a sustainable solution that supports the growth of rooftop solar while addressing the concerns of both smaller local installers and the bigger players in the industry. The state must consider revising its net-metering policy to ensure that the growth of the solar industry is not impeded.
For now, Solar + storage is an essential solution to meet California’s clean energy goals, and we must work towards making it accessible to all households. Call Staten Solar for all your solar + storage needs.