California will continue to pay retail rate for excess solar power

A January 2016 article by the NY Times noted that regulators in California agreed to retain a system that compensates users of rooftop solar panels for their excess electricity. This was an important decision for residential solar users since there have been shifts in the power industry stemming from the spread of renewable energy.

Sarah Auck. regulatory director at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, noted that “This decision creates certainty for consumers, it creates certainty for clean energy providers, it creates certainty for investors and it upholds California’s strong tradition of clean energy leadership.”

As things are now, at least 20 states are re-examining their policies on how to value electricity when it flows from customers to utilities, rather than the other way around. Under so-called net metering, customers receive credits on their bills for the unused energy their panels produce. Most states have such policies, but the amounts vary, with some offering credits near wholesale energy prices and others, like California, offering the retail rate.

As Solar advocates we are pleased that California solar users will received the retail rate for the power they generated, and believe that this helps the electrical infrastructure by lowering strain on the grid, especially important at times of high energy demand which in turns results in higher end costs to the consumer.

While some feel that solar customers put an undue burden on non-solar customers, California regulators sided mainly with the solar industry and its proponents and generally rejected proposals to reduce the net-metering credit and add a slate of new charges, though it added some new rates and fees.

The net-metering program narrowly approved by the California Public Utilities Commission will require that new solar customers pay a one-time interconnection fee, estimated between $75 and $150, and begin paying fees of a few cents a kilowatt-hour that most other customers already pay. Those charges fund low-income and energy efficiency programs. The NY Times article also noted that Solar customers will also be compensated at different rates depending on when they send their excess power to the grid.

It is important to note that the changes do not affect customers who already have solar panels or who install them before the utilities in their area reach certain levels of rooftop use in their service territories, which the California Solar Energy Industries Association estimates will happen by early next year. And regulators, who are to re-examine net metering again in 2019, left open the possibility that they could revise or add charges.

Source : The New York Times

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