California government changes could jeopardize solar growth, report shows

According to a new report from Environment California Research & Policy Center, CALPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group.

The report comes as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is considering changes to the state’s net metering program, which compensates solar owners for excess electricity they sell back to the grid.

“California needs continued growth in rooftop solar power to meet its clean energy goals,” says Laura Deehan, state director at the Environment California Research & Policy Center. “The drastic changes in solar compensation that the CPUC plans to bring down California’s leadership in rooftop solar power.” ”

The report, Rooftop solar power at risk: Net metering cuts could threaten clean energy progress in California, highlights several case studies on how solar compensation affects installation rates. Several studies have examined California utilities, which are not required to follow CPUC net metering policies, showing that reduced compensation has held back the deployment of solar power.

In Arizona, the Salt River Project adopted new rooftop solar fees and policies that nearly doubled the payback time for solar projects. The adoption of solar power declined by 50-95% after the changes were made.

Nevada’s 2016 reduction in net metering compensation was followed by a 47% reduction in residential solar installations in the following year. Nevada finally restored net metering.

The Imperial Irrigation District in California abandoned net metering in July 2016, causing residential solar installations to drop 88%, while the Turlock Irrigation District in California ended net metering in early 2015. In two years , annual residential solar installations had declined 74 percent.

California law commits the state to achieving 100% clean electricity by 2045. To achieve this, state officials estimate that the state will need 39 GW of solar power at the customer’s premises, which will almost quadruple the current distributed solar capacity in California.

“Rooftop solar power is cheaper, more efficient, and accessible to more Californians than ever before,” says Jenn Engstrom, state director of the CALPIRG Education Fund. “California has so much to gain by investing in solar power on the roofs of our homes, schools and businesses, but the utility’s proposal to eliminate net metering is effectively pushing rooftop solar out of the market. ”

Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric are proposing to impose the country’s highest fixed charges for solar customers, while simultaneously reducing the net metering payments that solar customers receive.

Bernard P. Love