The California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) was quick to applaud Gov. Jerry Brown for signing into law legislation that he expects will protect existing solar customers while continuing to encourage more consumers to invest in rooftop solar through continued robust incentives for renewable energy.
The legislation, AB 327 (Perea), began life as a rate-reform bill and evolved into what has been described as one of the largest solar energy bills in the state's history. It was the subject of much wrangling between solar sector advocates and the state's public electric utilities.
‘California is once again making history and setting a new bar for solar power,’ says CALSEIA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro in a statement. ‘With this law, Governor Brown is paving the way for truly capturing the vast potential of solar power in California.’
According to CALSEIA, the most significant aspect of AB 327 is in its stipulation that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) create a net energy metering (NEM) program that is uncapped and unlimited, thereby opening up the market to millions of new customers. Previous law capped the number of customers able to benefit from NEM incentives at 5% of a utility's peak load. The law also makes it clear that consumers can continue to sign up for NEM as it is currently structured through July 2017.
‘As the CPUC considers rules regarding grandfathering of net metering customers, I expect the commission to ensure that customers who took service under net metering prior to reaching the statutory net-metering cap on or before July 1, 2017, are protected under those rules for the expected life of their systems,’ says Brown in a signing statement.
CALSEIA says the governor's signing statement is important for reassuring existing solar customers signed up for NEM that their expected returns will be protected. It also makes Brown's expectations explicit, although the final arbiter on NEM policy and rates is the CPUC. A recent report commissioned by the state's public utilities for the CPUC emphasized the costs of NEM to non-solar customers.
The law also stipulates that the state's goal of getting to 33% renewable energy by 2020 is a floor, not a ceiling, allowing the state's utilities to generate more of their energy from renewable resources.