ORIGINAL REPORTING: Big Decision Due On California Net Metering
Rooftop Solar Benefits vs. Benefits Remain in Dispute
Herman K. Trabish, August 18, 2021 (California Current)
Editor’s note: The commission's proposed decision was released December 13.
The longstanding question over rooftop solar systems’ costs versus its benefits remained unanswered at the conclusion of testimony given during the California Public Utilities Commission Net Energy Metering 3.0 proceeding.
Whether it is behind-the-meter solar or system infrastructure, there is a potential cost shift, but there is also value, power system consultant Karl Rabago, and former Texas utility commissioner, said. “Regulators are obligated to determine resources’ value, revenue requirements, and who should bear the cost or whether there is another more cost-effective substitute.”
The CPUC proceeding “could ask what the most cost-effective resource is for addressing wildfires and serving transmission constrained load pockets,” he added. “The CPUC is doing the analysis the way it has always been done, which will find a cost shift instead of doing an unbiased comprehensive study of distributed resources’ value in meeting California’s reliability and resilience challenge.”
But imposing costs on customers who don’t have solar installation fails to meet the requirements of the 2013 law, AB 327, which mandated a NEM tariff that is fair to all customers and keeps solar growing, countered Natural Resources Defense Council Climate and Clean Energy Program Senior Scientist Mohit Chhabra.
The retail NEM rate increases the bills of non-solar owners for the costs of maintaining utility systems while “NEM customers get over-subsidized,” Chhabra said. But according to Thomas Beach, consultant for the Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar, not factored in are cumulative savings and the societal benefits of reduced natural gas generation, like avoided carbon emissions and reduced air pollution. He estimated behind the meter solar local economic benefits at up to $4.3 billion.
Under today’s NEM, behind-the-meter solar owners are credited with the per-kWh retail rate for the electricity their systems send to their utilities. But that imposes costs on other customers because residential solar customers pay less than utilities’ costs to serve them, the California Public Utility Commission-ordered January 2021 Lookback Study confirmed… click here for more