TOU Meters Lead to Less Solar

By Published On: May 11, 2007

The governor offered legislation to immediately fix a glitch in implementing the state’s Million Solar Roofs initiative May 9. Subsidies paving the way for Million Solar were expected to be overbooked. However, a requirement on the retail end of the program caused a nearly 80 percent decline in sign-ups for the California Public Utilities Commission incentives. The bipartisan legislation is still in a conceptual stage, according to the governor’s office. It is expected to allow regulators to temporarily change the rate structure for solar installations retroactive to the first of this year. The commission could take action on the issue next month. “We can maximize Californians’ participation in the program,” stated Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Environmentalists applauded the legislative move. “Ideally, the agreement will be introduced as an emergency bill next week,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Environment California lobbyist. The price snafu was a result of time-of-use rates applied to subsidized solar projects during peak demand. The requirement for solar installations to install time-of-use meters went into effect at the beginning of the year. Thus, even though the solar panels are creating juice, the time-of-use meters charge customers the highest prices available during peak hours for energy not supplied by the sun-driven installation. Retail customers without time-of-use meters pay flat, tiered rates for electricity. “It’s extremely encouraging that we’re seeing smart meters installed,” said California Independent System Operator spokesperson Stephanie McCorkle. While she lamented the utility bill caused by the CPUC rate, it is not expected to affect the grid operator’s summer outlook forecast.

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