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More Solar in CA? Ruling Says “Yes!”

2.1 Gigawatts of Solar Potential Will Power Nearly 500,000 Homes

Last week the California Public Utility Commission (PUC) unfettered 2.1 gigawatts of additional solar power potential, enough clean energy generation for nearly 500,000 homes.

In their May 24 clarification ruling on the calculation formulas for net metering (NEM) the commissioners ruled for the solar industry, solar job growth and solar advocates in the state, along with 25 state legislators and 60,000 Californians who urged the agency to enact this decision.

Industry reaction to the ruling brought a flood of exuberant headlines:

Huge Win for California Solar: CPUC Keeps Net Energy Metering Alive” – GreentechMedia

Utility regulators more than double California’s solar power goalLos Angeles Times

California Expands Net Metering Program for Solar-Power Sales” – Bloomberg

California Expands Rooftop Solar-Power Program – Wall Street Journal

California Public Utilities Commission Does Right by Solar” – Cleantechnica.com

We Won!” – Vote Solar

“The CPUC’s decision to clarify the net metering cap ensures that Californians who want to take control of rising energy costs will be able to

continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” said Scott Gordon, SVP, Sales for HelioPower, one of the nation’s largest solar installers. “Using an average home solar power system of 5 kilowatt, 2.1 gigawatts would power up to ½ million homes in our state and fuel the creation of many more solar jobs,” said Gordon.

The commission’s May 24 press release announcing the unanimous decision stated, “The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today increased the number of rooftop solar installations that will qualify for net energy metering (NEM) by clarifying the way the program is capped.”

NEM allows customers to receive a bill credit for excess energy produced by their home solar system. However, the number of solar systems allowed to receive NEM credits is not unlimited.  California law states that electric utilities are only obligated to offer NEM to customers until the amount of installed solar capacity equals five percent of the utility’s “aggregated customer peak demand.”  Prior to today’s decision, electric utilities interpreted “aggregate customer peak demand” to mean the coincident system peak demand, or the highest demand from all customers at any one time.  Under this interpretation, it is estimated that this cap could be reached in Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s territory as soon as 2013, at which time the utilities would not accept new NEM customers.  Without NEM, the market potential for rooftop solar would be severely restricted. Today’s decision clarifies that aggregate customer peak demand means the aggregation, or sum, of individual customers’ peak demands. This clarification doubles the amount of solar systems that can benefit from NEM, providing the benefits of solar energy to many more customers.

Said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey, “Solar energy provides a clean, renewable source of electricity for California homes and businesses. NEM is critical to the ongoing success of California’s solar industry, which employs thousands of workers across the state.  Today’s decision ensures that the solar industry will continue to thrive for years to come, and we are fully committed to developing a long-term solution that secures the future of the industry in California.”

Added Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon, “Today’s decision will enable more California families, schools, and community and faith based organizations the opportunity to engage in California’s dynamic energy markets. By expansion, we can keep the solar workforce employed and expand this benefit to historically disadvantage communities.”

Said Commissioner Mark J. Ferron, “Since it was first adopted, the NEM program has helped to drive significant investment to the solar industry in California, and has been a model for many other states. Our decision today continues the NEM program and also initiates a comprehensive study of the program to allow us to evaluate the costs and benefits of NEM to participants and non-participants.”

From  Renewable Energy World, “Californians are on board. “With electricity bills constantly rising, it’s no surprise that Californians are responding strongly to this call to preserve access to a cheaper, safer, cleaner energy option. It’s past time for utilities to ditch dirty, outdated fossil fuels that burden their customers with asthma and other deadly health problems and embrace clean, cost-effective rooftop solar,” said Evan Gillespie, campaign director for Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign.

California’s program has allowed over 100,000 homes, businesses, schools, and public agencies to go solar and lower their energy costs. This in

turn supports thousands of jobs statewide and reduces the need for expensive, polluting fossil-based power plants.

“California’s solar industry employs more than 25,000 Californians and has driven $10 billion of private  investment — and net metering is central to that success,” said Sara Birmingham, director of western policy for the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Source Links:

The proposal voted on is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/WORD_PDF/AGENDA_DECISION/167171.pdf.

What is Net Metering?

http://www.protectnetmetering.org/learnmore/what-is-net-metering/

http://votesolar.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Protect-NEM-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Press coverage of story:

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Huge-Win-For-California-Solar-CPUC-Keeps-Net-Energy-Metering-Alive/

http://www.seia.org/cs/news_detail?pressrelease.id=2130

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/24/BUAF1ON5RC.DTL

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-24/california-expands-net-metering-program-for-solar-power-sales.html

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-puc-solar-20120525,0,4107903.story

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/05/california-puc-rules-in-favor-of-net-metering?cmpid=WNL-Friday-May25-2012 or http://tinyurl.com/85ug74g

http://cleantechnica.com/2012/05/22/25-state-legislators-urge-put-protect-solar-industry/

http://www.pv-tech.org/editors_blog/bittersweet_victory_for_solar_industry_after_cpucs_net_metering_decision