Billy Ludt, SOLAR POWER WORLD
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted unanimously to approve major modifications to the “Avoided Cost Calculator” (ACC) that deeply undercuts the value of rooftop solar on Thursday. The vote came after over 7,000 public comments were submitted to the commissioners protesting the modifications and after dozens of members of the public called to testify at the commission meeting.
The ACC is a model developed by E3, a consulting firm regularly used by utilities to put out research products biased against distributed energy generation, that is also under contract with the CPUC. The ACC measures utility avoided costs from customer solar — how much utility costs go down for every solar roof built in California. It is the state’s official “value of solar” calculator.
This year E3 and CPUC included major revisions that cut the value of rooftop solar in the 2021 calculator by about one-third the value in the 2020 version. The calculator has an additional 30 GW of utility-scale solar and storage going online by 2025.
“Rooftop solar is essentially crowded out by these new resources and its value is measured to be lower,” industry advocacy group Save California Solar stated in a press release. “The idea of 30 GW of utility-scale solar and storage being installed over the next four years is wildly out of step with reality.”
In the four-year period between 2017 and 2020, just 6.4 GW of utility-scale solar was installed. A total of 15 GW of utility-scale solar has been built in California to date.
The calculator uses an entirely new and untested model for predicting how wholesale energy pricing will behave in the future.
“CPUC cannot start using this new model to set rates, including net energy metering values, without thoroughly vetting it with a wide range of stakeholders,” Save California Solar added. “These cooked numbers and biased calculations are contained in CPUC Draft Resolution 5150, which was adopted by the commission on June 24.”
Rooftop solar maintains popularity in California, with voters overwhelmingly opposed to changes that would halt the expansion of solar in working and middle-class neighborhoods. Industry members expect this vote could take California back to a time when solar was only affordable to wealthy households.
Rooftop solar with net metering support is key to the California Energy Commission’s joint agency “road map” to get California to 100% clean energy, and a generally more affordable route than utility-scale solar.
“Efforts to undermine rooftop solar through ACC updates or in the CPUC’s upcoming changes to net metering are out of step with California’s goals and values,” the group stated.