California slashed photo voltaic funds. Opponents search a rehearing

A trio of environmental teams needs the California Public Utilities Fee to upend final month’s choice that overhauled the foundations for Californians who set up rooftop photo voltaic on their properties and companies, decreasing funds to new photo voltaic clients for the electrical energy they generate.

The Shield Our Communities Basis, the Environmental Working Group and the Middle for Organic Range filed an utility for a rehearing and a reversal of the Dec. 15 ruling by the fee.

“They made a mistake,” mentioned Invoice Powers, an engineer and board member of the Shield Our Communities Basis. “This was the mistaken choice.”

At concern is what’s colloquially referred to as NEM 3.0 — the third iteration of Internet Vitality Metering guidelines in California that decide the dimensions of the credit clients obtain on their utility payments when their rooftop photo voltaic programs generate extra power than they eat. Critics of the outdated guidelines mentioned they resulted in larger electrical payments for households with out rooftop photo voltaic panels, together with low-income households that may’t afford them.

Handed with all 5 commissioners voting in favor, the difficult 260-page choice additionally will embody $900 million in upfront incentives for patrons to pair photo voltaic with battery storage programs, with $630 million put aside for low-income clients. The fee estimates the up to date guidelines will save common residential clients with solar-plus-storage at the least $136 a month on their utility payments.

One of many key provisions alters the best way rooftop photo voltaic house owners are compensated for the surplus electrical energy their programs ship again to the grid.

As a substitute of being credited on the retail fee of electrical energy, clients will receives a commission on the “precise prevented price.” That determine is decrease than the retail fee through the daylight when photo voltaic power is ample and low cost, however it’s larger through the night hours — when photo voltaic manufacturing ramps right down to virtually zero when the solar goes down and California’s electrical grid is beneath essentially the most stress.

The California Photo voltaic & Storage Assn., which vehemently opposed the rule adjustments, has estimated the typical compensation fee would drop from 30 cents per kilowatt-hour to eight cents, a discount of 75%.

The up to date photo voltaic guidelines are scheduled to enter impact in mid-April and can have an effect on new photo voltaic clients.

The request for a rehearing zeroes in on a state legislation that grew to become a part of the Public Utilities Code. A piece of the code instructs the fee to make sure “that customer-sited renewable distributed technology continues to develop sustainably and embody particular alternate options designed for progress amongst residential clients in deprived communities.”

The teams’ submitting argues NEM 3.0 as written “fails to conform” with that mandate.

Putting in rooftop photo voltaic can run into the tens of 1000’s of {dollars}, and the teams say the brand new guidelines will lengthen the system’s payback interval, discouraging clients from investing in photo voltaic, and reduce the financial savings clients obtain on their utility payments.

Subsequently, they are saying, the choice “will devastate photo voltaic adoption charges and thus fail to make sure the continued sustainable progress of distributed technology.”

On the day the brand new guidelines have been adopted, CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds predicted the adjustments won’t undermine photo voltaic’s progress in California. When the foundations have been final up to date in 2016, Reynolds mentioned, there was a decline within the variety of photo voltaic programs linked to the utility grid however the numbers rebounded and reached file highs in 2022.

“All of that is to say there will probably be some measure of lower after this choice that’s completely to be anticipated,” Reynolds mentioned, “however it won’t sign the loss of life of the trade or the rooftop photo voltaic market.”

The fee additionally obtained one different utility for a rehearing — from Michael E. Boyd, president of Californians for Renewable Vitality, a nonprofit in Santa Cruz County.

As for what occurs subsequent, CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper mentioned in an e mail that though the fee will concern a proper choice concerning the purposes for a rehearing, “there isn’t a particular timeline” as to when that call will probably be issued.

Powers of the Shield Our Communities Basis mentioned he’s not optimistic that the fee will reverse its choice however cited a procedural requirement referred to as “exhaustion of administrative treatments” that mandates that challengers pursue all out there administrative avenues and lift all points earlier than bringing a lawsuit in opposition to a public company.

“So if we don’t file the applying for a rehearing, there isn’t a risk of taking this to an appellate courtroom,” Powers mentioned.

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