CPUC’s Draft Decision Upholds Net Metering for California

The California Public Utilities Commission issued a strong proposed decision today that, if adopted, would uphold net metering in California for future solar customers. This is very encouraging news for Californians and others across the country who are fighting to maintain solar choice against utility opposition.

net metering rally at CPUC, San Francisco, CA

It’s important to note that this is still a proposed decision, and California’s solar fate won’t be known until it’s made final. That said, this proposed decision represents a balanced path that will support consumer savings, local jobs, healthier communities and climate progress. It rejects the utilities’ flawed math and misleading rhetoric on the grid impacts of rooftop solar, and it affirms that full retail credit for net metering is the right way forward for California energy consumers.

The proposed decision would provide valuable certainty to future solar customers, and expand solar access to more Californians:

  • Rejects demand charges, fixed charges and standby charges proposed by the utilities and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates that would apply only to solar customers, and finds that none are reasonable or cost-justified.
  • Ensures that customers who go solar under the new net metering tariff can stay on that tariff for 20 years from the date their solar array is interconnected—reducing uncertainty around future policy changes. The Commission will review the net metering rules again in 2019, but any changes would not apply to customers who have already gone solar before that date.
  • For the first time, extends eligibility for the net metering successor tariff to customer-sited facilities larger than one megawatt in size, so long as the customer pays all interconnection and distribution system upgrade fees.
  • Removes a utility-imposed roadblock to virtual net metering in multi-tenant buildings, requiring that the utilities’ virtual net metering tariffs must allow one solar array to serve multiple service delivery points in multi-tenant buildings.
  • Establishes a Phase 2 of the proceeding to develop an “expanded” virtual net metering program specifically for customers in disadvantaged communities, one that will likely allow customers to receive virtual net metering credits by investing in an off-site solar array.

The proposed decision would also make some compromise changes that will apply to customers under the new net metering program:

  • Requires solar customers to pay non-bypassable charges on all the energy they consume from the grid, regardless of how much clean energy they export back to the grid. We consider it reasonable that solar customers contribute to public purpose programs, like energy efficiency rebates and rate subsidies for low-income residential customers, which would add a new payment of approximately 1–2 cents per kilowatt hour of clean energy exported back to the grid. However, new transmission and generation charges noted in the proposed decision need greater scrutiny.
  • Puts a small interconnection fee in place to ensure that customers cover the costs to the utility of plugging into the grid, another reasonable compromise. The amount of the fee may only include the following Commission-approved utility costs: Net Metering Processing and Administrative Costs, Distribution Engineering Costs, and Metering Installation/Inspection and Commissioning Costs.
  • Obligates residential customers who go solar in 2018 or later to go onto their utility’s existing residential time-of-use (TOU) rate schedule or participate in a TOU pilot program. We have some concerns about this proposed change, because solar customers deserve to have choices in their rate structure just as other customers do, and the TOU pilot programs are still under construction. We urge the Commission to ensure that future solar customers always have at least two viable rate options.

The proposed decision is the latest step in a multi-year effort to preserve fair credit for rooftop solar customers in the Golden State. In recent months, Californians from all over the state have made it clear that we want solar progress and that the utility’s anti-solar proposals are quite simply on the wrong side of history. Solar supporters delivered more than 150,000 petitions in support of net metering, a historic level of public engagement at the California PUC. More than a thousand Californians rallied outside utility headquarters this fall in opposition to the utilities’ damaging rooftop solar proposals. In addition, more than 50 local government officials, 16 organizations representing social justice issues and communities of color as well as numerous state education and teachers’ associations, farmers and agricultural businesses, faith leaders, and Native American tribal communities have formally urged the CPUC to uphold the net metering program and continue to expand solar access. For many of these groups, this was the first time they engaged in a PUC process, a further indication of just how important this issue is to Californians of all walks of life.

We are thankful for the leadership from the CPUC and Governor Brown thus far. We hope the Commission’s final decision will again uphold the public interest and keep California leading the nation on solar.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT Sign up for updates from Vote Solar on solar progress and energy justice across the U.S.