California ruling on net metering a major win for solar

Great news: The California Public Utilities Commission has voted that homeowners with solar power systems will be compensated at the retail rate for power their systems generate and feed back into the electrical grid. 

Utility companies had argued that solar customers should be paid a rate closer to wholesale price to compensate for the "burden" they placed on non-solar customers to pick up the tab left by homeowners who now generate their own power.

Of course, this is not the view of us in the solar industry (and frankly anyone without a vested interest in traditional utilities) as solar consumers relieve pressure on the aging grid infrastructure, minimize fossil-fueled power generation and water usage required in that process, and reduces the need to buy power at expensive peak times. Indeed, the ruling reflects that value and is a major win for renewable energy in California and the US.

“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," said Sara Baldwin Auck, regulatory director at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, a nonprofit policy group that supports clean energy.

New customers will be required to pay an interconnection fee ($75-$150) and begin paying fees of a few cents per kilowatt-hour when utility limits are reached, estimated to be in 2017. Anyone installing a system in advance of those rooftop limits being reached will escape these fees, which will fund low-income and energy efficiency programs.

All in all, it's a positive step for solar and the energy landscape in general. Perhaps Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said it best:

"It’s not just net-metering 2.0, it’s grid 2.0 that this decision essentially ushers in.”