Last week the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) took action to give California homeowners with solar arrays and those who install solar under the current net-energy metering (NEM) program assurances that the net-metering contract they sign will be good for 20 years under state policy. The decision, in the largest residential solar market in the U.S. will provide homeowners and the solar industry there more stability in terms of what to expect form their utilities and how much it solar will cost and how soon it will pay off.
“By ensuring that all California customers who install solar under the current NEM program will continue to receive full retail, as well as fair credit, for the clean energy they send to the grid for 20 years, the commission has shown a commitment to the investments already made by more than 200,000 existing solar customers across the state,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president of state affairs with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). She added that it also helps provide stability and certainty to prospective solar customers.
“This rule applies to the state’s 200,000 existing IOU [i.e., investor-owned utilities] solar customers plus any other IOU customers who go solar before July 2017 or before their utility hits the current 5 percent program cap,” said The Vote Solar Initiative’s Regional Director of the West Coast Susannah Churchill. She added that part of that decision was influenced by the strong support of the public, with more than 50,000 people signing a petition to support NEM in the state.
That cap also has a downside for some homeowners. “There will be an unprecedented surge of demand for solar power after [the] hearing, so it’s impossible to predict when the cap will be hit,” said Daniel Sullivan, president and founder of Sullivan Solar Power. “It is clearly in the best interest for property owners to go solar now, locking in 20 years of protections.”
“We deeply appreciate the work and leadership of CPUC President Peevey, the Commission and Governor Brown’s office in establishing a NEM transition period,” Hitt said. “We look forward to working with the CPUC on future rules which will continue to fairly value solar energy in a manner that enables innovation and encourages customers to adopt clean, on-site renewable energy in California.”
The commission made the decision as California’s original NEM program is reaching its targets across almost all of the state’s largest utilities. “Today, California continues to lead the nation in solar capacity, generating 5,600 megawatts of clean, reliable electricity, which is enough to power more than 600,000 homes statewide,” Hitt said. “Smart public policies such as NEM have helped to create nearly 50,000 jobs in California, pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy and reduce pollution. That’s a win-win for the state anyway you look at it.”
Loking ahead the state will hold a meeting on April 23 to address the NEM successor tariff. “The purpose of this workshop is to provide a public venue for interested parties to identify and discuss the highest priority issues related to the CPUC’s implementation of a successor tariff to net energy metering (NEM) following Assembly Bill (AB) 327 (Perea, 2013),” CPUC said in a statement about the event.