Rooftop solar power is a popular option in California for homeowners that comes with financial benefits. Currently, Californians can participate in net metering which gives them a credit on their utility bill for unused electricity that they give back to the grid.
Solar power systems have been generally associated with the wealthy, but companies have been working hard to make installing a solar system accessible to all, and net metering allows those in low and middle income areas to receive benefits from solar power systems during rolling blackouts.
The utility companies want to make extensive changes to net metering that would set back the progress that has been made and make rooftop solar systems less affordable and continue the trend that solar energy is only for the wealthy.
Solar power and net metering can get confusing, so let’s look at what net metering is and what California utility companies are trying to change.
To put it simply, net metering is when renewable energy systems like solar panels installed on your roof are connected to the utility grid. Net metering has utilized 1.3 million California rooftops to produce carbon-free energy without the need of spending money on building new plants.
Whatever energy you do not use is transmitted into the public grid for others to use. Those who own the solar panels receive a credit on their utility bill, creating an excellent incentive to invest in solar power. The credit is supposed to be equal to the retail value of electricity from utility companies.
California is also looking to connect electric car batteries to the public grid since consumers are leaning towards electric cars anyway. The utility companies want to stop this, and do not want consumers to have any benefits from their solar power purchases.
Net Metering Changes
Currently, California utility companies like Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) want solar panel users to receive less for their excess power. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) is working on net metering changes.
The proposed changes to California net metering would include a massive credit value cut to solar system owners. This could be up to 75% lower than the current credit. On top of drastically reducing the credit, the utilities would like for solar customers to pay more monthly fees of up to $100.
One of the biggest issues here is that those who invested in solar panel systems were promised incentives to do so. These new changes would remove all progress being made and make solar power only accessible to the very wealthy again. Should these changes take place, however, the CPUC states that previous solar power system owners would be grandfathered into their old benefits.
To sum it up, the battlefield that is utility companies against solar power is complex and confusing. While utility companies are concerned with the benefits those with solar panels receive from net metering, they are not looking at the potential cost they may pay out of their company pocket to compensate for the loss of shared grid energy if they move forward with these changes.
The changes would be a step backward, and if you are looking to invest in solar power you may want to do so sooner rather than later to get the better benefits if these changes go through.