Press Release – CPUC Updated Net Metering Proposal
Gov. Newsom and CPUC Issue Clarifying Net Metering Proposal But Work Remains to Accelerate Access and Adoption of Solar
Sacramento, CA – Today, Governor Newsom’s California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued its updated proposed decision in the net metering proceeding. Net metering is a foundational clean energy policy that allows customers with onsite solar to save on their electric bill by receiving a credit for the excess clean energy they send back to the grid. The popular policy has helped propel California to the national leadership role it holds in rooftop solar adoption, with over 1.5 million solar roofs installed statewide.
The complex new proposal does not effectively support low-income and other disadvantaged communities who wish to adopt solar and benefit from the same bill savings and local environmental benefits that many other Californian’s have received. The proposal both narrowly defines who qualifies as low-income and fails to acknowledge the true additional costs these customers face when going solar. Specifically, more than 2 million customers have household incomes below 80% of the area median income (AMI), but do not qualify for low-income incentives under the CPUC’s definition.
“We are calling on Governor Newsom’s CPUC to develop stronger policies for low-income and other disadvantaged communities to benefit from the savings, clean air, and reliability benefits that solar can offer,” said Sachu Constantine, Vote Solar’s Executive Director. “The drastic decline in solar export rate harms California families and will stifle climate progress. What’s more, the proposal fails to adequately support future low-income solar customers. Solar has a key role to play in meeting California’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. Particularly with the passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, Governor Newsom should be supporting Californians who want to go solar, not undermining them.”
The proposal rejects a solar fee, includes a glide path for the solar export rate, and refrains from infringing on customer’s behind the meter consumption. However, the proposed glide path falls short of creating a smooth and comprehensive transition from the state’s current solar policy in many ways. Though Vote Solar and other advocates supported a glide path, the steep initial drop in rates is prompting concerns about potential impacts.
The proposed ‘glide path’ to help transition the solar market to this new policy paradigm includes a sudden and significant initial reduction in value of solar exports. This combined with the inadequate low-income solar assistance provisions hinders rooftop solar expansion at a time when the federal government has committed to monumental investments in clean energy progress.
Further, the proposed diminished export rate minimizes savings for all rooftop solar customers, especially low-income families whose energy bills account for a larger portion of their income. In effect, the proposed decision would create considerable barriers for millions of low-income families who already face additional barriers in considering rooftop solar.
“In terms of the broader market, we are happy to see the Commission is rejecting the concept of a discriminatory solar fee. However, there is a lot of work to do to make sure this proposal creates a reasonable glide path for customers to follow from today’s solar programs to the future the Commission is building. We look forward to working with the CPUC on creating a smooth and predictable path for the state’s solar policies,” said Constantine.
The CPUC, which regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities, opened a proceeding to update net metering in August 2020. Stakeholders submitted and debated a range of proposed policy changes for how to keep rooftop solar growing and at the same time make rooftop solar generation more valuable to all utility ratepayers. The CPUC issued a disastrous proposal in December 2021, which was met with fierce opposition from the general public, environmental organizations, celebrities, and the solar industry. In response, the CPUC withdrew its proposal, accepted additional comments, and issued this new proposal today.
Vote Solar was a stakeholder in the CPUC proceeding in 2021 and 2022 leading up the proposal and has played an influential role in shaping NEM policy in California for over 15 years. The CPUC will take stakeholder and public comment on today’s proposed decision for at least the next 45 days, with a final vote expected in late 2022.