CALIFORNIAState ready to pull plug on rooftop solar aid
- Dec 29, 2021 5:04 pm GMT
Two homes, each merrily twinkling with holiday lights.
The one with no solar panels and the escalating electric bill? It’s subsidizing the one with solar panels and the low electric bill,
Right now, rooftop solar owners like
Pandey’s monthly charge for grid connection and overhead also would soar, to an average
“The biggest mistake of this is the massive de-incentivizing of solar rooftop and battery, which is just a great model for tackling a big climate problem,” said Pandey, whose long-term plans to invest in battery storage and an electric vehicle have grown more complicated.
“Given the push toward clean energy, it just doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.”
That’s precisely what some solar proponents fear.
be a really dramatic reduction in consumer investment.”
Other solar fans say those fears are overblown, and the changes are a simple issue of fairness.
Remember those two homes with the twinkling lights?
The one without solar is paying
It amounts to robbing the poor to pay the rich, critics argue. And that’s what these changes attempt to address.
“The CPUC’s proposed decision recognizes we can grow rooftop solar in
“The solar industry will tell you the ‘sky is falling,’ but what they won’t say is that the cost of rooftop solar has dropped 70% while the subsidies have continued to increase over the past 25 years. They won’t say that current … subsidies make rooftop solar the most expensive source of clean energy — 8 times costlier than the market value of solar energy.”
The proposed changes would not eliminate the cost shift, but take steps toward modernizing it so the price of maintaining the electric grid and other mandated programs is more equitably shared. “It’s time to update this 25-year-old program so we can more affordably accomplish our clean energy goals,” Fairbanks said.
The PUC’s public advocate — a quasi-independent, in-house Solomon the Wise, charged with protecting consumers — agrees.
“California ratepayers are currently paying too much toward incentives for (rooftop solar) generation,” it said in a filing. The cost of those incentives “unfairly raises electricity rates for those customers without (rooftop solar) generation. These nonparticipating customers are paying unreasonable amounts of money … to subsidize the customers who can afford to install (them).”
A new rate system should foster sustainable growth for solar in a way that equitably benefits all customers, the public advocate said.
The proposal before the PUC would credit solar owners for what their power is really worth on the market — a fraction of the full retail rate they now receive — and would increase what they pay to use the grid itself.
The ultimate goal is a future where rooftop solar is paired with battery storage systems, so the electricity created by day can be used after dark. That would reduce or eliminate the need for dirtier, fossil fuel powered plants to fire up at night.
Promoting “greater adoption of customer-sited storage, which will help
Caught in the fray
About 1.2 million households in
The rate system in place today was designed to jump-start the solar rooftop industry 25 years ago and was wildly successful, filings with the PUC say. The goal of 1 million solar rooftops seemed a distant dream, but it is now reality. The
“The thing about rooftop solar is it’s local, and each installation reduces needs for investment in power plants and transmission lines,” said
Studies have found that
The proposal also goes too far by reducing the amount of time that rooftop owners are “grandfathered” in on their rate plans. That could upend the cost-benefit calculations they made when buying a system, which can cost some
While reformers argue that the mature industry no longer needs subsidies and accuse the solar industry of resisting change to protect its profits, defenders argue that earning retail rates for generated power is only fair and accuse the utilities of trying to destroy rooftop solar to protect their own profits.
Solar owners are caught in the fray.
“The whole point is, we’re outputting energy to the grid, and that is coming from something we paid for,” said Pandey of
The solution is to, perhaps, charge people less for energy they get from solar users, verses charging more to solar users.”
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