California Legislation Could Secure Future of Solar in the State

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California legislation could secure future of solar in the stateAmendments to a controversial California utilities bill could secure the future of net metering in the state.  The amendments have garnered widespread support from a solar industry that was vehemently opposed to the original bill.

The California legislature is expected to vote on AB 327 before the end of its legislative session on Sept. 12.  AB 327 would create a strong and predictable future for the solar industry.

Amendments to the bill, however, have drawn letters and memorandums of support from nonprofit solar advocacy agencies, including VoteSolar, The Alliance for Solar Choice and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“This bill, with the amendments, at its core, removes numerous artificial regulatory barriers to solar adoption,” said Bryan Miller, president of TASC and vice president for public policy at solar leasing company Sunrun.

The solar industry and utility companies have been at odds in California and in many other states regarding how to manage net metering. Utilities have argued that crediting solar customers the full retail rate for the electricity they feed back onto the grid is too costly and doesn’t adequately compensate the utility companies themselves for the infrastructure it provides to those customers.

Solar industry leaders have conversely argued that even net metering doesn’t account for the true value of solar and the infrastructure investments it saves utilities.

The amendments to the new bill accomplished four solar industry goals:

  1. Lifting the suspension of net metering in California that will happen as part of the current law at the end of 2014.
  1. Removing uncertainty about how the current 5 percent net metering cap is calculated.
  1. Providing a framework to allow net metering even after utilities reach 5 percent of their peak load.
  1. Removing the 33 percent limit on renewable energy generation inherent in the language of the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard.

“This bill removed the ceiling on the RPS, allowing for essentially unlimited renewable,” Miller said. “No other state has done that.”

He said all of the amendments make the bill worth supporting for the solar industry.

“Any one these things by itself would be really important and really helpful,” Miller added. “Together, they provide a long-term path forward for the growth of the solar industry throughout the state of California.”