CPUC could vote Jan. 28 on ALJ decision on net metering, solar implementation

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) could vote Jan. 28 on a successor program to the current Net Energy Metering (NEM) program with implications for residential solar.

CPUC said Dec. 15 that it wants to help ensure that Californians will continue to receive the benefits of using clean energy by proposing a new net metering program friendly to residential solar.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has at least one residential solar company threatening to pull out of the state over Nevada’s newly-passed policy on net metering for rooftop solar.

NEM allows a customer-generator, such as those who have installed solar photovoltaics (PV), to receive a financial credit for power generated by their on-site system and fed back to the utility, CPUC noted in a news release.

The proposed decision issued by CPUC Administrative Law Judge Anne E. Simon establishes a NEM successor program that would continue the existing NEM structure while making some adjustments to align the costs of NEM successor customers more closely with those of non-NEM customers.

In creating a successor program to the existing NEM program, the CPUC was directed by Assembly Bill 327 (Perea, 2013) to ensure that customers pay their appropriate share of costs while encouraging a sustainable customer-sited renewable distributed generation program.

The proposed decision attempts to strike a balance between these requirements. These new costs for NEM successor customers include:

● A one-time interconnection fee (likely to be approximately $75-$150). The fee represents the costs for a utility to review and ensure that a NEM system interconnects safely to the grid, has historically been borne by all utility customers, including non-NEM customers. The Proposed Decision finds that these interconnection costs can be paid by NEM successor customers themselves without jeopardizing the economics of the NEM installation. 

● Non-bypassable charges that all utility customers pay.  Non-bypassable charges are used to fund low income and efficiency programs. They are the equivalent of approximately 2-3 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy consumed. Historically, NEM customers have only paid for non-bypassable charges if over the course of a year they consumed more electricity from the grid than their installation produced. The proposed decision finds that NEM successor customers should pay for non-bypassable charges on all energy they consume from the grid, regardless of the amount of energy they have exported to the grid. 

In order to maximize the value of time-of-use rates in improving customer responsiveness to grid impacts, the proposed order requires NEM successor customers to utilize time-of-use rates. Customers who sign up in 2018 or later must utilize time-of-use rates as soon as they sign up, while customers who sign up before 2018 must utilize time-of-use rates beginning when all residential customers go on default time-of-use rates in 2019.

The proposed decision establishes a framework to develop two new programs to drive adoption of renewable distributed generation among residential customers in disadvantaged communities. One program would provide financial incentives for multi-family buildings to install solar PV, and the second would allow residential customers in disadvantaged communities, regardless of whether they own or rent, to participate in NEM even if they aren’t able to install a renewable energy system on their premises.

The successor NEM program would take effect for new NEM customers after the utilities’ existing NEM program participation caps are met, or July 1, 2017, whichever occurs first.

The proposed decision is scheduled for the CPUC’s Jan. 28, 2016, Voting Meeting. The proposed decision involves Rulemaking 14-07-002.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.