Kavya Balaraman, UTILITY DIVE
California utilities and solar advocates presented widely different views on the approach the state should take to change its net energy metering framework in comments filed with the California Public Utilities Commission on Friday.
The parties’ comments came in response to a May ruling from a CPUC administrative law judge, which asked them to weigh in on multiple issues, including how to transition from one net energy metering tariff to the other and how to collect public purpose charges under the new framework.
The ruling essentially reopened the record in the commission’s net energy metering proceeding, so that regulators can accept new information to evaluate the best course of action, according to Seth Hilton, partner at Stoel Rives. After this, “we’re likely to see a revised proposed decision come out which will respond to the proposed changes in the comments in some fashion — either adopt those changes, or [it] won’t,” he said.
Read more at https://www.utilitydive.com/news/utility-industry-california-commission-solar-net-metering/625522/?utm_id=59107&sfmc_id=3422102
Kenny Stancil, COMMON DREAMS
“For the first time a federal court has said utilities can be liable under antitrust laws if they attack rooftop solar,” said one advocate. “The future for renewable energy just got a lot brighter.”
Clean energy advocates celebrated Monday after a federal appeals court reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that Arizona power utility Salt River Project—which jacked up electricity rates by more than 60% for customers who installed rooftop solar in the Phoenix metropolitan area—can be prosecuted for violating federal antitrust laws.
“We’re thrilled that the Salt River Project will be held accountable for obstructing rooftop solar,” Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program, said in a statement. “This is a game-changer in the struggle to defend rooftop solar against utilities’ all-out war on clean, affordable, climate-resilient energy.”
Read more at https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/01/31/ruling-rooftop-solar-called-game-changer-clean-energy
Jeff St. John, CANARY MEDIA
Utility regulators are under heavy pressure to change their net-metering proposal — but there’s little agreement on what should result.
The Sierra Club’s new compromise proposal also addresses the issue of the roughly 1.3 million customers who already have rooftop solar. Current policy allows these customers to remain on their preexisting net-metering rates — both the original net-metering regime and the “NEM 2.0” regime put in place in 2016 — for 20 years after they installed their systems.
The battle over how to update the policies on compensation for rooftop solar systems in California has only grown more heated in recent weeks. A few groups have proposed new compromises, but the two camps are still far from agreement. Meanwhile, California regulators have postponed their decision on the issue, so the debate will rage on for the time being.
The California Public Utilities Commission’s proposal last month to slash the value of energy exported to the power grid from future rooftop solar systems and impose monthly fees on customers who install them has sparked a massive public and political backlash.
Thousands of people have joined protests organized by the solar industry to demonstrate against the proposal over the past month, and polling indicates a hefty majority of California residents oppose it. Major political figures including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) have publicly blasted the plan, painting it as a threat to the state’s push to decarbonize its electricity supply. Actors Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo have joined the fray on Twitter.
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) said earlier this month that “changes need to be made” to the current CPUC proposal, but he didn’t offer specific fixes and said he won’t interfere in the commission’s decision-making process. Since December, two of the commission’s five members have departed and been replaced by Newsom appointees, including new commission President Alice Reynolds, a former senior adviser to Newsom’s administration.
Read more at https://www.canarymedia.com/articles/solar/is-there-hope-of-finding-middle-ground-on-californias-rooftop-solar-policy
Sammy Roth, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
Walker Wright, vice president of public policy at San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest rooftop solar installer, said in a written statement that Guzman Aceves’ decision would “impose the highest discriminatory charges on solar and energy storage customers in the U.S., putting rooftop solar and batteries out of reach for countless families in California just as more households are demanding that the state do more to combat climate change and provide them with reliable, sustainable energy.”
California officials want to slash payments for rooftop solar power while adding incentives for homes and businesses to install batteries, saying the changes will help the state achieve 100% clean energy in a way that keeps the lights on, prevents electricity rates from spiraling out of control and also encourages people to drive electric cars.
The proposal from Martha Guzman Aceves, one of five members of the California Public Utilities Commission, would revamp an incentive program called net energy metering that has helped the state become a national solar power leader, with more than 1.3 million rooftop and other small-scale systems installed. The solar industry and climate change advocacy groups have lobbied Gov. Gavin Newsom and his appointees on the utilities commission to keep the program’s basic tenets unchanged.
But in an interview, Guzman Aceves said net metering needs to evolve to reflect California’s changing energy needs. The Golden State’s power grid is increasingly flooded by solar energy during the afternoon but strained on hot summer evenings, when millions of people throttle up their air conditioners to cope with high temperatures made worse by the climate crisis.
Read more at https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-12-13/california-proposes-big-changes-to-rooftop-solar-incentives
Jules Scully, PV-TECH
A coalition of 347 organisations has warned that potential changes to California’s policy support for rooftop solar could set back climate change progress and harm low-income residents’ access to solar energy.
An open later sent by campaign group Save California Solar to state Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) calls on policymakers to keep solar affordable as the Newsom Administration considers changes to net energy metering (NEM), a policy that defines how solar users send energy back to and interact with the grid.
NEM allows customers with rooftop PV systems to receive a financial credit on their electric bills for any surplus energy fed back to their utility.
According to the coalition, proposals by California utilities “would drastically reduce the credit solar consumers receive for the excess energy they produce”. The group said: “We are concerned that ill-informed changes to net metering, such as slashing solar bill savings or imposing new fees on solar users, will set back California’s climate change and environmental justice goals.”
Read more at https://www.pv-tech.org/california-organisations-warn-of-ill-informed-changes-to-net-metering-policy/
Hayley Davis, BAY NATURE
This spring, Alameda County approved of the Aramis Renewable Energy Project, dividing East Bay environmentalists who disagree about whether the undeveloped North Livermore Valley should remain open ranchland and wildlife habitat, or whether part of the flat, sunny valley would be put to better use as a solar farm to help the Bay Area transition away from fossil fuels.
All around California, the development of open space to produce renewable energy has put climate and biodiversity goals at odds. To meet the state’s 2045 goal of 100 percent renewable energy will require between 1.6 and 3.1 million acres of wind and solar, according to projections from The Nature Conservancy, and much of that land, like the North Livermore Valley, has wildlife living on it. The debate has become acrimonious, framed as a choice between stopping the extinction of the desert tortoise or the extreme heat killing people in the Pacific Northwest.
But some scientists and activists say there’s another way: the deployment of distributed solar systems, such as those on rooftops and over parking lots. After federally threatened desert tortoises died as a result of the Yellow Pine Solar Project in the Mojave Desert, Kevin Emmerich, co-founder of Basin and Range Watch, wrote, “Does using renewable energy mean we have to push species toward extinction? No, these solar panels can easily go on rooftops and brownfields.” Already over a million homes in California have rooftop panels, and more residential rooftop solar is installed here each year than any other state by far.
Read more at https://baynature.org/2021/07/15/can-rooftop-solar-save-californias-open-space/?
Ken Cook, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
A high-stakes battle is under way over the future of rooftop solar energy in California. On one side: Current and future rooftop solar consumers in the nation’s leading solar state. On the other, the state’s big three investor-owned utilities — PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.
The utilities have petitioned the state Public Utilities Commission to slash by more than half the credit they must pay customers for excess energy generated by rooftop solar panels. They also want to charge new rooftop solar customers nearly $70 a month just to hook up to the grid.
The PUC will hold hearings on this petition beginning July 26. The final decision, due by the end of the year, could cost solar ratepayers millions, essentially destroying the rooftop solar market in California.
Instead of considering penalties for rooftop solar customers, PUC commissioners should be asking why we still need a regressive utility model.
Continue reading “Op-Ed: How PG&E and other California utilities are trying to kill rooftop solar”
Laura Neish, CALMATTERS
Rooftop and other small solar projects are an important part of the state’s future energy grid, not just benefiting their owners, but providing stability, resilience and key services to everyone. Given rooftop solar’s importance to us all, it is extremely disappointing that the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted last month to significantly reduce the value small-solar owners are credited for their energy contributions to the grid.
The decision will discourage — or even destroy the market for — rooftop solar on existing roofs. It also raises the question of whether it will keep the state’s electric grid from reaching its goal of distributing 100% clean (nonfossil fuel) energy by 2045, as required by law.
The commission maintains an incentive structure that pays Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to do the wrong thing. The commission needs to rethink what is best for California and encourage more rooftop installations, which provide essential benefits, such as keeping energy flowing locally during outages. They are the fastest route to 100% clean energy in the state.
These millions of rooftop systems can act in concert to supply energy during peak demand, eliminating the need to power up or build new, inefficient, “peaker” electric generation plants. Less dramatically, rooftop systems allow solar owners to reduce their own grid use during high electric demand.
Read more at https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/06/public-utilities-commission-is-working-against-californias-climate-goals/
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.”
Continue reading “CPUC votes in favor of utility-developed solar despite rooftop market’s opposition”
David Roberts, VOLTS
A New Roadmap for the Lowest Cost Grid
Energy nerds love arguing over the value of distributed energy resources (DERs), the rooftop solar panels and customer-owned batteries that are growing more popular by the day. There’s a fight in California right now over the value of energy from rooftop solar, just the latest skirmish in a long war that has ranged over numerous states.
The conventional wisdom in wonk circles is that the value provided by DERs is not sufficient to overcome the fact that the energy they produce is, on a per-kWh basis, much more expensive than that produced by utility-scale solar, wind, and batteries (residential solar is roughly 2.5 times as expensive as utility-scale solar, according to NREL).
For that reason, many wonks view DERs as a kind of boutique energy and argue that public funds are better spent on utility-scale energy.
Turns out: no, that’s wrong. Some groundbreaking new modeling demonstrates that the value of DERs to the overall electricity system is far greater than has typically been appreciated.
Read more at https://www.volts.wtf/p/rooftop-solar-and-home-batteries?