Sacramenton— California’s three large investor-owned utilities yesterday submitted a legal challenge to the January decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to continue net metering. The application for rehearing from PG&E asks the Commission to vacate the decision. This would effectively prevent customers from installing solar after the current rules expire if the Commission’s legal division agrees to further review. The other two utilities request major changes that would put solar out of reach for a majority of customers.
The CPUC proceeding to consider changes to net metering has already spanned 22 months and extended one month past the statutory deadline imposed by the state legislature. After reviewing a mountain of filings from the utilities and others, the Commission decided to firmly reject proposals from the utilities to replace net metering with complicated schemes that would have prevented most customers from going solar.
“The utilities are continuing their legal maneuvers because it is disruptive to the solar industry,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). “Rather than working in partnership with solar companies and striving to reduce costs for customers, utilities would prefer to be obstructionists and muck up the market.”
Even though the January 28 decision, so-called NEM 2.0, rejected the utilities’ proposals, the decision does make significant changes to net metering. It requires customers to pay an upfront fee, pay an ongoing monthly fee, and be subject to time-varying rates. The Commission stated that it will continue re-evaluating the rules, but intends to change the rules gradually so that customers continue to have the opportunity to install solar power and the industry has time to continue lowering prices.
“The utilities continue to use false analysis to claim that net metering is a massive subsidy,” said Brad Heavner, policy director for CALSEIA. “Rather than accepting the Commission’s decision and allowing their customers to go solar under fair rules, the utilities are fighting to keep opportunities away from their customers.”
The new net metering rules will not affect current solar customers or those who install solar before utilities meet their caps on the current rules. That is expected in April for SDG&E, October for PG&E, and early 2017 for SCE. If the Commission does not grant the applications for rehearing, the new rules should be in place in time to allow a smooth transition.