IID Agrees to Help Stranded Solar Customers

CALSEIA-negotiated agreement will give net metering to over 1000 stranded solar customers in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys

Sacramento - With just a few hours left in the state legislative session, the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to help over 1000 solar consumers who had been stranded for over six months, most with solar systems on their roofs and facing a very uncertain future. These 1000-plus consumers will be allowed to benefit from a pro-solar program called Net Energy Metering.

“While we had a more comprehensive solution in mind, what IID agreed to today gives relief to the vast majority of stranded solar customers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “We want to recognize the significant effort of IID staff in reaching this agreement and appreciate the Board’s willingness to agree to solve this problem.”

The agreement came in the form of a letter from IID’s general manager addressed to Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) who represents the Imperial Valley and chairs the Senate Energy Committee. A bill, AB 2163 by Assembly member Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), would have required IID to give net metering to all of IID’s customers who had executed a contract for solar prior to July 19, 2016, when IID adopted a successor rooftop solar program.  The bill advanced to the Senate Energy Committee last night, but will now not be heard as a result of this administrative agreement reached today. Today is the last day of the legislative session.

The IID letter offers to give net metering to all customers who did one of the following:

  • Submitted an interconnection application to IID prior to April 1, 2016
  • Applied for an IID solar rebate prior to February 5, 2016, and who submits an interconnection application by October 1, 2016
  • Received a valid building permit or paid for a permit prior to April 1, 2016 and who submits an interconnection agreement by October 1, 2016

According to estimates by CALSEIA, these parameters will qualify over 1200 customers for net metering, including eight affordable housing projects that were also caught in this state of limbo.

On February 29, 2016, the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) ended their Net Energy Metering (NEM) program without any forewarning to consumers or the solar industry, stranding hundreds of consumers in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys who had already signed contracts to go solar, and, in many cases, had a solar system on their roof.

After six months of negotiations, including several failed attempts to resolve the problem administratively, CALSEIA sought resolution from the state legislature. AB 2163 was amended in August as a last-ditch effort to seek relief for thousands of homeowners, renters and businesses in IID territory.

“We want to thank Senator Ben Hueso, Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia and Assembly Member Das Williams for their recognition of this consumer crisis and their willingness to push for a solution,” said Del Chiaro. “This is an important day for solar consumers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys, but also for consumers around the state.”

As CALSEIA recognizes this significant resolution in IID territory, the association points out that the ability to go solar is severely impaired by IID’s successor net billing program adopted on July 19, 2016.

“While we helped customers who invested in solar in the recent past, today’s agreement does nothing to help consumers who want to go solar in the future,” stated Del Chiaro. “We would like to build upon today’s compromise agreement and work with IID staff and board to modify their successor solar program to make it possible for consumers to invest in rooftop solar going forward.”

Net metering is a program that credits solar consumers for the surplus electricity they export to the grid. The program has helped fuel the transformational growth of solar in IID and across the state, making it more affordable for everyone including low and moderate-income consumers. Publically owned utilities and irrigation districts, like IID, are not regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission, which voted this past February to protect net metering for customers of the state’s investor owned utilities, such as Southern California Edison, to in part avoid the scenario played out in IID territory these past six months. As a result, each publically owned utility decides for themselves what the rooftop solar market looks like going forward.

"This agreement will definitely benefit our Eastern Valley low income tenants  and will help us generate electricity savings for our developments,” said Julie Bornstein, executive director of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition.