Hundreds of thousands of Californians spoke up this week for Solar. Rooftop solar is a thriving industry in California. Homeowners are able to have a small generator of their own on their rooftop or in their backyard. Homeowners and businesses are able to continue generating their own clean and renewable electricity.
Utilities are not against solar per se, but they want to build their own mega solar farms and sell that power to consumers, which would bring them higher profits and in control of the electricity costs in the future.
It is now cheaper to purchase and finance your own solar system than buying electricity from the utilities. The payback for a typical solar system is three to five years, and with no electric bills, the buyer can use that money to pay for their solar system. Once the system is paid for they have free electricity for several decades. Except for a monthly charge of about $10 to be hooked up to a public utility’s grid. This is to cover administrative costs of the utility company.
There are a number of advantages to rooftop solar. It makes more sense to put solar onto structures that are already built than to upset eco-systems in deserts and other undeveloped lands. The power generated is in a much closer proximity of where it will be consumed, and therefore, it does not need to be transmitted for hundreds of miles. Solar now employs more people in California than all the utility companies put together. One estimate is that the solar industry employs 54,000 people statewide. The solar industry has also infused new life into the electric car industry. A solar system makes it possible to run an Electric Vehicle EV, with very little maintenance costs. Solar energy means cleaner air for all Californians.
This week the three Investor Owned Utility companies (IOU’s) met with the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission). It was a last ditch effort by the three largest utilities, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E, to crush rooftop solar by doing away with Net Metering (NEM). Current Net Metering laws allow solar customers to produce their own electricity and receive full retail credits for the excess energy they produce. Solar supporters delivered 150,000 petitions to the CPUC in support of Californian’s private solar ownership and Net Metering.
The petitions were from people from all walks of life. There were churches, consumers, educators, local government environmental groups, tribes, farmers, businesses, and the solar industry itself. Governor Jerry Brown is supportive of the solar industry. This new decision puts California in stark contrast to neighboring states like Nevada, which recently went in the opposite direction, cutting NEM rates and virtually shutting down the solar industry in that state.
The CPUC voted 3 to 2 to uphold Net Metering that would keep the full retail credit for solar homeowners and businesses. The California utilities failed to prove that their services were not being compensated by the solar owners themselves. Present Solar customers will be grandfathered in at the present NEM agreement for 20 years.
The only significant change was that the future solar customers will be put on Time Of Use, which would mean they would get more compensation for generation during peak hours.
This program will be developed with the help of CALSEIA, the California Solar Energy Industries Association, to make sure that this process will be fair to both sides. CALSEIA’s theme is: “Putting solar in the hands of all Californians.” Also, a one-time fee of between $75 to $150 will be imposed on the new customers that go solar after the new rules will go into effect. This was a great victory for solar in California, and all the response proved that Californians are in full support of the solar industry and all the positive developments that come with it.
“We all know that California is a world leader when it comes to being green” says Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSEIA. “But today’s vote is more than that. It is about California continuing to champion an innovative and different way of doing things – in this case, building a smarter energy grid and allowing individual consumers to generate their own clean energy.”
Needless to say, the California utilities like PG&E, SCE, and SDGE are upset that their attempts to kill solar in this state, like some of their counterparts in the neighboring states, went nowhere. But the commission also determined that “Net Metering should change but only gradually,” adds Del Chiaro. “This decision takes steps to change Net Metering over time, but we are confident it will maintain the opportunity to go solar for utility customers.”
Other good news last month, was that the 30% Federal Tax Credit, also known as the 30% ITC, was extended by the U.S. Congress for another five years. The ITC had been scheduled to be phased out at the end of 2016.
With the extension of the 30% ITC and now the extension of Net Metering in California, the solar industry’s expansion will sure to continue well through this century.
If you are interested in learning more about solar for your home or business, please contact Cosmic Solar at 760-749-1111 or go to our Web site: www.cosmicsolar.com/
Judith Shadzi is vice president of Cosmic Solar, Inc.