ORIGINAL REPORTING: California’s Rooftop Solar Choices
As California's solar net metering battle goes to regulators, a focus on reliability may be the best answer; Customer advocates say the current rooftop solar rate is "unsustainable," while solar advocates say "they want to kill us."
Herman K. Trabish, October 1, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: A proposed resolution to this debate was releases in January but the backlash against its decreased benefits for rooftop solar has prevented the commission from passing it and the debate continues.
Uncompromising final arguments were filed Sept. 14 in the nationally-watched debate to set a behind-the-meter (BTM) solar tariff in California to succeed the state's retail rate net energy metering (NEM).
Proposals to cut NEM export compensation to customers will "kill" their right of self-generation and are "hostile" to solar businesses, solar advocates said. But current compensation for solar owners creates a "massive" shift of system costs to non-solar owners and a "crisis" of rising electricity rates, customer advocates and U.C. Berkeley economists noted.
NEM changes proposed by a coalition of stakeholders that "want us dead" may alter the "payback period" on solar purchases and "devastate today's market," California Solar and Storage Association (CalSSA) Policy Director Brad Heavner said.
That coalition, which includes environmental advocate the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and ratepayer advocate The Utility Reform Network (TURN), sees a threat of higher costs to all electricity consumers.
"The solar industry is attacking groups that support reform," but today's NEM "is a material driver of rate increases," TURN Staff Attorney Matthew Freedman said. Without reform that recognizes "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," the cost shift "will explode in the coming decade and threaten affordability for all customers."
The "fundamental tension" in California's NEM legislation is that compensation must both drive solar growth and protect all customers, a CPUC-ordered study on cost shifts concluded. Standard regulatory metrics show retail rate NEM shifts costs unjustly. But a new approach to solar that recognizes its reliability value may remedy that, some stakeholders suggested. Utilities and solar advocates across the country face the same "fundamental tension" and are debating the potential shift of costs from solar owners to electricity customers who do not own solar… click here for more