The California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) joined a number of solar and renewable energy advocates in urging the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to require that net-energy metering (NEM) agreements with existing customers be honored for 30 years or longer. The petition effort took the form of a letter written to CPUC President Michael Peevey.
The letter, a copy of which also went to Gov. Jerry Brown, asks Peevey to preserve the current NEM contract for all of California's NEM consumers who sign up before the 5% cap is reached for at least 30 years from the interconnection date. The AB 327 legislation that Brown signed in October of last year requires the CPUC to establish rules under which utilities will be allowed to set new NEM rates. At issue is how long the utilities will be required to honor the rates of NEM contracts signed under the existing rules.
‘Some of the language in the legislation is not exactly friendly to the solar sector,’ says Brad Heavner, CALSEIA's policy director, who is concerned that it leaves too much leverage for utilities to roll back NEM gains. ‘The utilities are saying existing contracts should be honored for six to 10 years, and we're saying 30 years at least.’
CALSEIA and its allies argue that uncertainty generated by AB 327 is having an adverse effect on the renewable energy market. In particular, the letter expresses concern that customers who thought they were signing up for long-term rates when they had solar power systems installed will see diminished value under a new rate scheme.
‘We want the discussion to be about customer expectations,’ Heavner says.
The letter was also signed by the Los Angeles Business Council; the California Cattleman's Association; the California Association of School Business Officials; and other businesses, organizations and school districts.
The pressure campaign comes as the CPUC is preparing to issue its ruling on NEM policy in March. Renewable energy advocates are pressing for a favorable NEM decision in advance of the official ruling, hoping to take the issue off the table.
Heavner says the NEM issue in California is part and parcel with similar utility challenges to the policy across the country.