SDG&E wants “modifications”
By Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Tribune
San Diego Gas and Electric and two other major California utilities Monday filed applications urging the California Public Utilities Commission to hold a rehearing to vacate or make "modifications" to its decision keeping retail rate net metering in place until 2019.
"We feel it's in the best interest of our customers to re-look at this issue and consumer advocates actually agree, as they have taken similar action," said SDG&E representative Amber Albrecht.
In January, in a tense 3-2 vote, the CPUC sided with solar backers over utilities that insist they are not trying to blunt the growth of solar power in California.
Instead, utilities say the net metering system that pays rooftop solar customers for the excess electricity their systems send back to the grid is unfair to consumers who don't have solar energy systems.
Solar companies and their customers say the power their systems generate helps lower strain on the electrical grid and reduces the need to buy power during times of high demand.
"Sadly, the investor-owned utilities refuse to accept the policy objectives of California and prefer to cling on to their antiquated fossil fuel business models rather than allow our state to move towards energy independence,” Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power, said in a statement.
The net metering framework prompted supporters to deliver 130,000 petitions to the CPUC ahead of its Jan. 28 meeting and the commission — in a ruling that ran more than 150 pages — agreed to keep tying credits to retail rates, rather than near wholesale rates that other states use.
The commission did, however, pass rules requiring new solar customers pay a one-time interconnection fee that is estimated to cost $75 to $150.
Other fees will go into effect for new users but don't apply to customers with systems already in place.
The CPUC said it will continue to re-evaluate the rules but the decision was widely viewed as a big win for solar, as other states such as Nevada have rolled back some solar incentives.
SDG&E filed its application for rehearing jointly with Southern California Edison, calling on the CPUC to make changes to its decision.
"What we've asked in our application is some modifications that help to limit the increases on our customers' electric bills," Albrecht said.
Pacific Gas and Electric also filed paperwork Monday, the deadline for applications for a rehearing, looking to get the commission to vacate its ruling.
They were joined by The Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group, whose calls for a "value of distributed energy" tariff were rebuffed by the commission, and the Coalition of California Utility Employees.
SDG&E estimates customers without solar could pay an extra $300 on their utility bills by 2025.
"What we're really looking at is who's really paying this additional money to maintain the grid, to build out the two-way infrastructure needed to support rooftop solar," Albrecht said.
But solar companies dispute those figures.
"The utilities continue to use false analysis to claim net metering is a huge subsidy," said Brad Heavner, policy director at California Solar Energy Industries Association. "Rather than accepting the commission's decision and allowing their customers to go solar under fair rules, the utilities are fighting to keep opportunities away from their customers."
The CPUC has 120 days to respond to the requests for a rehearing.