Guest JUICE: Rate Reform’s Sun Remodel

By Published On: November 7, 2013

By Bernadette Del Chiaro The top three issues affecting California’s solar industry in 2014 are net metering and implementation of the new rate reform law, AB 327, continued implementation of California’s solar water heating incentives, and reducing or eliminating permitting and interconnection costs for solar projects. We are proud of the fact that California is one of the strongest and fastest growing solar markets in the world. Yet, the health and strength of our market, which has grown to surpass a nuclear power plant in size, depends entirely on continued good public policy decisions. Topping the California solar industry’s 2014 priority list is implementation of AB 327 by Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno), the significant rate re-design law that includes major changes to California’s net energy metering program. Net metering is the policy that allows a solar system owner to spin their meter backwards during the day to generate a bill credit, valued at retail electricity rates, for use when the sun is not shining. It is a critical component of the economics of solar power. AB 327 mandates that all customers can continue to sign up for net metering as it is currently structured for a few years, or July 2017 at the latest. The California Public Utilities Commission is directed to create a new program that is unlimited in size and scope, and that continues to grow rooftop solar power throughout the state including in disadvantaged communities. The signing statement issued by Gov. Jerry Brown in October makes it clear that all existing net metering customers will be allowed to benefit from the current net metering program for the life of their solar systems. With AB 327, California is once again leading the charge for the rest of the country when it comes to investing in solar power. The devil will be in the details. We look forward to working with regulators and the governor’s office on creating policies that keep solar power California’s bright spot. In the year ahead, the state’s solar industry also will focus on implementing AB 1470 (2007) that created the nation’s largest rebate program for solar water heating systems. Recent decisions opened this program to commercial swimming pools. CALSEIA will be working with regulators and administrators of the rebate program to continue to drive consumer interest in the residential sector as well. Solar water heating technologies are the work horses of the solar industry. A tremendous amount of energy is wasted, not to mention carbon pollution is unnecessarily emitted, because California does a poor job of capturing the heat of our year-round sun to do something as simple as heat the water for our homes and businesses. Solar water heating technologies reduce natural gas consumption up to 75 percent in the buildings that employ them. Last but not least, the solar industry will focus on reducing or eliminating costs and bureaucracy associated with permitting and interconnection. These so-called “soft costs” are becoming increasingly problematic especially as manufacturing and other system component costs decline. Our permitting and interconnection processes are stuck in the 1980s. California needs to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, create a statewide approach that abolishes the balkanized system we have today, and make use of computer technology to create efficiencies that will result in significant cost savings for consumers. —Bernadette Del Chiaro is the California Solar Energy Industries Association Executive Director, Edited By:

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