In a bid to open new opportunities for solar energy, a Sonoma County photovoltaic system installer insists that existing law allows customers to aggregate their demand for electricity. Utilities disagree, claiming that the law was intended to apply only to direct access?a program suspended by the Legislature - - and was not meant to allow customer aggregation. The applicable legislation intended to allow "end-use customers to aggregate their electric loads with private aggregators as individual users," argued Michael Kyes, Sebastopol solar installer. He raised the issue in a recently granted motion to intervene in the California Public Utilities Commission's community-choice aggregation and distributed-generation proceedings. If the commission implements that intent, Kyes argues, it will "allow millions of additional Californians" to benefit from solar energy and related solar incentive programs. "They are disenfranchised by their circumstances," wrote Kyes. "We hope to have an order out by the end of the year that would pave the way for full implementation of the community-choice aggregation program," said Kim Malcolm, the CPUC administrative law judge handling the proceeding. She added that she hopes to draft a decision on Kyes's motion soon. Allowing customer aggregation will enable solar energy systems in numerous locations where they are either prohibited or uneconomical under current programs and regulations. That includes consolidating supplies at apartments, multitenant industrial and commercial buildings, municipal facilities, and campus developments with numerous buildings. "With one big system they could save a whole lot of money," according to Kyes. The issue turns on the interpretation of Section 366(b) of AB 117, which authorizes community aggregation. California's investor-owned utilities claim that the section was intended only to provide direct access, which was frozen in 2001. In a joint filing, the utilities further argue that should the commission wish to take up the issue raised by Kyes, it should do so in dockets more related to direct access, rather than community-choice aggregation. However, the commission?s public adviser advised Kyes to intervene in the community-choice aggregation proceeding, said Terrie Prosper, CPUC spokesperson. Kyes first raised the issue with the commission after Pacific Gas & Electric refused to allow Friends House, one of his clients in Santa Rosa, to install a central solar system in a campuslike setting. It would interconnect with the grid through one meter instead of through the existing separate meters on individual buildings at the complex (Circuit, Aug. 5, 2005). "By not allowing the aggregation of electrical loads, cities such as ours are severely restricted in using solar power and other beneficial power sources that must be located at or near the site where the energy is consumed," David Brennan, Sebastopol city manager, wrote to the CPUC in an October 6 letter. The city wants to aggregate its own load to offset the power needed by its four water pumps?its biggest usage?by placing solar rooftops on parking structures to power nearby city buildings. All of them are individually metered. Solar panels cannot be placed at the well sites because they are not oriented toward the sun or lack sufficient space, Brennan said. Under its Solar Sebastopol program, Brennan said, the city is committed to seeing installation of 1 MW of photovoltaic panels within its borders. The city itself has installed 37 kW of solar panels and hopes to install up to another 100 kW of capacity, he said. However, it is stymied in its efforts because it cannot aggregate its metering and billing at city facilities, he said.