PG&E disappointed with CPUC net metering proposal

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Pacific Gas and Electric said a proposed decision from a California Public Utilities Commission judge on net energy metering “falls well short of what is needed to ensure sustainable growth of solar” resources in the state.

The proposed decision attempts to create a successor to the existing net metering program, which has seen the growth of solar photovoltaic facilities installed on-site at customer facilities, while several utilities have asserted that current net metering customers do not pay their fair share for the use of the transmission and distribution networks.

Under 2013 legislation, the CPUC was directed “to ensure that customers pay their appropriate share of costs while encouraging a sustainable customer-sited renewable distributed generation program,” the CPUC said in a Dec. 15 statement. The proposed decision by ALJ Anne Simon “attempts to strike a balance between these requirements,” the CPUC said.

The proposed decision would continue the existing net metering structure while making some adjustments, including adding a one-time interconnection fee that is likely to be between $75 and $150 for net metering customers, the CPUC said.

The proposed decision also calls for net metering customers to pay nonbypassable charges to support low-income customers and energy efficiency measures on all energy they use from the grid, regardless of the amount of energy they export to the grid.

Historically, net metering customers have only paid the nonbypassable charges if over the course of a year they have used more electricity from the grid than their on-site facilities produced, the CPUC noted.

The proposed decision also calls for new net metering customers to utilize time-of-use (TOU) rates. Customer who sign up for net metering in 2018 or later must utilize TOU rates as soon as they sign up, while customers who sign up before 2018 must utilize TOU rates beginning in 2019, when all residential customers are placed on TOU rates, the CPUC said.

Parties of record in the proceeding may file comments on the proposed decision, the CPUC said.

PG&E did not wait long, issuing a statement that said the CPUC “must do more” to ensure that rooftop solar can grow as a resource in California for years to come.

Nearly 20 years ago, customers were provided with substantial incentives to install rooftop solar facilities, and under those outdated rules, “rooftop solar users can effectively pay nothing for their use of the grid to both buy and sell electricity,” PG&E said. “In addition, they are paid more than market rates for excess electricity that they generate, despite solar costs falling more than 50 percent in the last six years.”

The incentives amount to nearly $1 billion annually across the state, which is offset by the rates paid by non-solar customers, PG&E said.

In a brief statement, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said his company supports the proposed decision, even though the plan to require new solar customers to be on TOU rates “is concerning.” TOU rates would reduce the motivation for installing solar facilities, and that was seen in 2007 when TOU rates were briefly mandated for solar customers, Rive said.

Although TOU rates “can send helpful signals about when to use electricity, we urge the PUC to closely examine the impacts of mandating time-of-use rates,” he said.

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