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A Good Day for Rooftop Solar!

by Geoffrey Smith, The Climate Center  |  Dec. 16, 2015

On December 15, the California Public Utilities Commission
(CPUC) largely rejected the Investor Owned Utility (PG&E, SDG&E, SCE)
proposals to dismantle the rules that make
rooftop solar viable. The CPUC’s decision, although preliminary, will
determine the fate of Net Energy Metering (NEM). NEM is the set of rules that
governs how rooftop solar systems are compensated by the utilities for the
energy they produce, and what connection fees and other charges are assessed.
It is the mechanism that has enabled several school districts around Sonoma
County to receive handsome paybacks for excess energy that their solar panels
generate. It has lowered the energy costs for thousands of Sonoma County

This is a huge victory for rooftop solar and a clean energy
future. However, it is only a proposed decision. We have our work cut out for
us over the next month to hold our ground against expected strong backlash from
the investor owned utilities.  

Here are the summary highlights of the proposed decision*:

  • Existing NEM is preserved with full retail credit
  • No reduced compensation rate
  • No demand charges
  • No capacity fees
  • No grid access fees
  • No monthly netting
  • No standby charges
  • Current exemptions from study fees and distribution
    upgrades remain
  • Virtual net metering (V-NEM) and meter aggregation
    continue with full retail credit
  • Market-rate V-NEM is expanded to allow participation
    behind multiple service delivery points on a single property.

While these are huge victories for rooftop solar, ongoing
vigilance is needed to secure, as quickly as possible, a future free of fossil
fuels. We at Solar Sonoma County will continue to work with our colleagues in
the distributed solar advocacy community to influence decisions affecting
future Time of Use (TOU) rates, application fees, charges for CARE (California
Alternate Rates for Energy program for low-income customers) and energy
efficiency programs, and community solar.

The final decision on NEM will be made at the CPUC meeting on
Thursday, January 28. Until then, we must keep the pressure on!

You can read all 148 pages of the proposed decision here (PDF).

*Much thanks to Brad Heavner, California Policy Director for
CalSEIA for a preliminary summary of the proposed decision.

Geoffrey D. Smith is the
Solar Sonoma County Program Coordinator for The Climate Center.
He can be reached at
geoffrey@solarsonomacounty.org or 707.654.4350.