in News Departments > New & Noteworthy
print the content item



UPDATED:

The board of commissioners of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has voted unanimously, by a vote of 5-0, in favor of a net-metering calculation method that is expected to significantly help the state's solar market - the U.S.' largest.

"We now have a runway to continue building residential and commercial solar in California," Benjamin Higgins, director of government affairs at Mainstream Energy/REC Solar, tells Solar Industry.

Existing state law set a net-metering cap of 5% of aggregate peak demand but did not specify how utilities should calculate aggregate peak demand. The state's utilities - Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric - had been using a calculation method that divided the aggregate capacity of all net-metered systems on the grid by utility system peak demand.

However, Vote Solar, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and other solar stakeholders had maintained that the language of California's statute instructed utilities to divide the aggregate capacity of net-metered systems by the aggregate of individual customers' peak demand.

The CPUC agreed with this interpretation of the statute. "Today's decision clarifies that aggregate customer peak demand means the aggregation, or sum, of individual customers' peak demands," the CPUC wrote in its announcement of the decision.

The difference between the two calculation methodologies represented 2.1 GW of solar capacity, Annie Carmichael, solar policy director at Vote Solar, told Solar Industry earlier this month.

Depending on how the calculations are made, the difference may be even more significant. Higgins notes that during the CPUC's meeting, Commissioner Michael Peevey  commented that if utilities continued to use their old methodology, 2.4 GW to 5.2 GW of solar power installation potential would be lost.

Per the CPUC, its new clarification will double the number of PV installations that can participate in net metering.

Opponents to the net-metering expansion have contended that the program is unsustainable over the long term and does not fairly distribute costs between PV-owning customers and non-PV-owning customers.

In order to assuage these concerns, the CPUC's decision also mandates the creation of a study examining the costs and benefits of net metering. Additionally, if a new, long-term net-metering policy is not implemented by Jan. 1, 2015, the CPUC will suspend the program for new customers.

"The intent was to strike a compromise between the parties," Higgins notes. Nevertheless, the costs-and-benefits study - which is widely believed to be long overdue - may actually wind up benefiting the PV sector as well.

"Essentially, this will be an update to the last net-metering study, which was released in March 2010," Higgins says, adding that the results of the study are expected to become available long before California's utilities reach the 5% net-metering cap.

Thus, the follow-up analysis necessary to set long-term net-metering policy can, ostensibly, be completed in time to ensure the industry can avoid any regulatory gaps or uncertainty.

Finally, although the CPUC's decision directly applies to only California's solar market, the entire U.S. PV industry should take note of this regulatory win.

"California, for better or worse, is often where the future happens first - especially with respect to renewables," Higgins says. "We can expect that if changes were made that undermined net-metering policy, that [trend] would spread elsewhere."

The full CPUC decision is available here.

Photo credit: miheco, via Flickr CC


Hybrid Energy Innovations 2015

Latest Top Stories

Mining Companies Find Value In Solar And Wind Generation

Mining companies are finding that solar and wind generation can help them defray costs and stay profitable in inhospitable parts of the globe.


Global Solar Developer UGE Finds A Rainbow In Lower Oil Prices

Urban Green Energy CEO Nick Blitterswyk says fear of oil prices is natural but unwarranted. Short-term, cheap oil actually favors project development, and the long-term trends are all going solar's way.


Nexamp Wrangles Largest Mass. Managed Growth Project For 2014

The Boston-based developer had to hustle to complete the large-scale project in bad weather on difficult terrain.


e2/ECTA Helps Dealership Go Green With 310 kW Rooftop PV System

Haldeman Ford in New Jersey turned to solar to cut electricity costs and to burnish its green credentials. The installer opted for power optimizers to reduce wiring and handle shading issues.


Market Forces Keep Solar's Prospects Undimmed By Cheap Oil

Oil prices are tangential at best in their relationship to practical considerations in the solar sector. Regulatory issues and dynamics of the maturing energy market are much more important.

Gamechange Racking_id1491
Solectria_id1450
PV America_id1480
Hybrid Energy Innovations 2015