California proposes major policy reform on rooftop solar

The policy, known as net metering, has become a controversial lightning rod since it was introduced decades ago: solar advocates say it plays an important role in supporting industry growth in the fight against climate change, while critics say it amounts to billions of dollars in subsidies for wealthy homeowners at the expense of convenience payers. other benefits.

Any change to policy could have far-reaching implications for the solar and utility industries – including large panel installers like Sunrun (RUN) and SunPower (SPWR). It could also provide an indication to states that tend to lead California on climate change and clean energy policy, experts say.

California is home to about 40% of the nation’s residential solar capacity.

The state Public Utilities Commission has been soliciting feedback on the matter from utilities, solar industry representatives and others, and may issue an announcement as soon as possible. is on Monday. The committee last made modest changes to network metering in 2016.

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Critics of net metering say that allowing homeowners with solar panels to sell their energy at market prices will save them from paying any part of the cost of maintaining the infrastructure. grid, which is included in the price of electricity to ordinary payers.

A study by the University of California, Berkeley earlier this year estimated that in San Diego, where home solar accounts for more than 20 percent of residential electricity consumption, non-solar customers are paying an extra $230 in utility bills each year.

“It’s kind of the opposite of Robin Hood’s situation,” Matthew Freedman, an attorney for California-based bidders advocacy group The Utility Reform Network, said in an interview. “And so we asked ourselves, ‘Should we provide the largest subsidies to the richest customers in the state?'”

Households with solar panels tend to be wealthier than those without, according to studies.

State-owned utility companies have recommended cutting the share of solar power sold to the grid and monthly fees to cover the cost of maintaining transmission lines and other infrastructure.

The solar industry says such reforms will only hurt the state’s efforts to combat climate change. Instead, it proposed a gradual reduction in the net metering rate over eight years.

“Solar companies will shut down in towns across the state and the market will plummet,” said Brad Heavner, policy director for the California Solar and Storage Association.


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