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California slashed solar payments. Opponents seek a rehearing


A trio of environmental teams need the California Public Utilities Fee to upend final month’s determination to overtake guidelines for Californians who set up rooftop photo voltaic on their houses and companies, lowering funds to new photo voltaic prospects for the electrical energy they generate.

The Defend Our Communities Basis, the Environmental Working Group and the Heart for Organic Range filed an software for a rehearing and reversal of the December 15 ruling of the fee.

“They’re incorrect,” stated Invoice Powers, an engineer and board member of the Defend Our Communities Basis. “It was the incorrect determination.”

At subject is the so-called NEM 3.0 — the third iteration of California’s Internet Power Metering guidelines that decide the quantity of credit prospects obtain on their utility payments when their photo voltaic methods on the roof generate extra vitality than they use. Critics of the outdated guidelines stated it resulted in greater electrical energy payments for households with out rooftop photo voltaic panels, together with low-income households who couldn’t afford them.

Handed by all 5 commissioners voting in favor, the complicated 260-page determination would additionally embrace $900 million in upfront incentives for patrons to pair photo voltaic with battery storage methods, with $630 million which is reserved for low-income prospects. The fee estimates the up to date guidelines will save the typical residential buyer with solar-plus-storage at the least $136 a month on their utility payments.

One of many key provisions adjustments the way in which rooftop photo voltaic house owners are paid for extra electrical energy despatched to their grid methods.

As an alternative of being credited on the retail electrical energy price, prospects are billed for “precise prevented prices.” That quantity is decrease than the retail price throughout daylight when photo voltaic vitality is plentiful and low-cost, however it’s greater throughout nighttime hours – when photo voltaic manufacturing drops to nearly zero when the solar goes down and the California’s electrical grid is beneath probably the most stress. .

The California Photo voltaic & Storage Assn., which strongly opposes the rule adjustments, estimates that the typical compensation price will 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 prospects.

The request for a rehearing zeroes in on a state legislation that kinds a part of the Public Utilities Code. A bit of the code directs the fee to make sure “that customer-based renewable distributed technology continues to develop sustainably and consists of particular options designed for progress amongst prospects dwelling in poor communities.”

The group’s submitting argues NEM 3.0 is written to have “didn’t comply” with that order.

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, discourage prospects from investing in photo voltaic, and scale back the financial savings prospects obtain on their utility payments.

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

On the day the brand new guidelines had been adopted, CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds predicted the adjustments wouldn’t harm photo voltaic progress in California. When the principles had been final up to date in 2016, Reynolds stated, there was a lower within the variety of photo voltaic methods linked to the utility grid however the numbers rebounded and reached a document excessive in 2022.

“All of that is to say that there will probably be a measure of decline after this determination that’s absolutely anticipated,” Reynolds stated, “but it surely won’t herald the dying of the trade or the rooftop photo voltaic market.”

The fee additionally obtained one other software for a rehearing — from Michael E. Boyd, president of Californians for Renewable Power, a Santa Cruz County nonprofit.

As for what occurs subsequent, CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper stated in an electronic mail that though the fee will subject a proper determination on the functions for a rehearing, “there isn’t any particular timeline” for when- a launch the choice.

The Powers of the Defend Our Communities Basis stated it didn’t count on the fee to reverse its determination however cited a procedural requirement known as “exhaustion of administrative cures” that mandates that challengers pursue all obtainable administrative channels and lift all points earlier than submitting a lawsuit towards a public company.

“So if we do not file an software for a rehearing, there is no risk of it going to the appeals courtroom,” Powers stated.

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