ORIGINAL REPORTING: Big Changes, Backlash To California Rooftop Solar Support
CPUC Proposes Big Changes to Rooftop Solar Payments and Charges
Herman K. Trabish, December 14, 2021 (California Current)
Editor’s note: California regulators continue to ponder how to balance the need to protect low-income solar customers and its rooftop solar industry.
A firestorm of controversy followed the just-released proposed decision from the California Public Utilities Commission that would make big revisions to the compensation paid to rooftop solar owners under Net Energy Metering.
The “enormous” charges and reduced payment are “a big hatchet job to rooftop solar,” said Brattle Group Principal and nationally recognized rate design expert Ahmad Faruqui. NRDC Climate and Clean Energy Program Senior Scientist Mohit Chhabra countered that the proposed revisions released Dec. 13 balance solar growth with non-solar owners’ costs. He said it gives customers incentives to pair solar and batteries and increases access for lower-income customers.
NEM is the payment credited to rooftop solar owners for generation their systems export to the grid. The proposed “successor tariff” makes seven changes to balance mandates in Assembly Bill 327, rooftop solar compensation’s enabling law.
The PD revises an existing plan that “negatively impacts non-participant ratepayers,” is “not cost-effective” for most customer classes, and “disproportionately harms low-income customers,” Administrative Law Judge Kelly Hymes concluded. A CPUC-ordered study showed a shift of costs to low-income customers and a January 2021’s Lookback Study showed cost shifts in all customer classes, Hymes said.
But those studies were flawed, solar defenders responded. Standard regulatory metrics show retail rate NEM shifts costs unjustly, but better approaches that recognize solar’s reliability value may alter those conclusions. That means the PD may not meet AB 327’s requirement to allow distributed solar “to grow sustainably,” they added.
Among its seven key changes, the PD’s net billing plan separates import and export charges, phases out the existing NEM plan while protecting the ongoing emergence of a solar-storage market, and provides a 10-year payback to protect the solar industry… click here for more