The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is preparing to reconsider the credit rooftop solar consumers receive for the excess energy they produce, and the battle between utilities and the solar industry is in full swing.
California’s three major investor-owner utilities, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) submitted a joint proposal to the CPUC on March 15 to alter the state’s net-metering plan and trigger monthly charges for solar customers. The utilities assert that electricity customers without solar systems pay more annually in their electricity bills to “subsidize” rooftop solar customers. To remedy this, the utilities propose adding a monthly grid charge “to ensure solar customers are appropriately contributing to costs for maintaining, operating and improving the grid, and for statewide public purpose programs, such as energy efficiency or programs for lower-income customers,” as well as a monthly customer charge “to pay for costs related to customer service and support such as call center costs, metering and other services benefitting all customers.”
The solar industry stands in firm opposition to utility claims and is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to expand net metering instead of scrapping it. The industry campaign “Save California Solar” says utilities are only against net metering because it “disrupts the utility monopoly and hurts their profits by allowing renters, schools, homeowners, farmers and others to use the sun for their own energy needs and to share it with their neighbors in exchange for a bill credit.”
CALSSA, the Solar Rights Alliance and the Benenson Strategy Group recently conducted a poll of California voters that found the majority support net metering and want to encourage more rooftop solar power in California.
“California is a solar state thanks to overwhelming support from voters,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director, CALSSA, in a press release. “Voters want California to actively expand and encourage rooftop solar, not allow utilities to undermine consumer choice.”