California regulators approve net metering 2.0

The California Public Utilities Commission has narrowly ruled in favor of a successor program to net metering in the state, which looks generally similar to the original program.

ByChristian Roselund, PV Magazine

A long and contentious process over the future of net metering came to a close this morning in San Francisco, with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voting 3-2 in favor of a Proposed Decision for a successor program to net metering which was produced the previous afternoon.

The decision preserves many of the basic features of retail-rate net metering, and rejects utility attempts to change the program in ways that would significantly weaken the economics of customer-sited solar. The new program will begin in July 2017 or as soon as net metering caps are reached in the service areas of the state’s three large investor-owned utilities. 

California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA) estimates that net metering caps will be reached in San Diego Gas & Electric Company's (SDG&E) service area in April and in Pacific Gas & Electric Company's (PG&E) service area in August.

Utility customers who own PV systems at their homes or businesses will receive retail-rate credits for the electricity they generate, minus “non-bypassable” charges of around US$0.02 per kilowatt-hour, which CalSEIA says is a workable solution. These non-bypassable charges will also be applied to virtual net metering systems.

PV system owners will also move to mandatory time-of-use rates in 2018, except San Diego customers, who will have a five-year period to transition from tiered rates. This will not affect businesses and farms which participate in net metering, as such customers are already on mandatory time-of-use rates. Finally, the commission imposed a $150 application fee for new customers in the program.

“It’s hard not to feel good right now in California,” CalSEIA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro told pv magazine. “It was a 3-2 vote and a real nail-biter, but at the end of the day California just protected net metering and that’s huge.” ...