Net metering bait and switch?

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Residents and businesses who have installed rooftop solar energy systems stand to lose most of their future energy savings under a new provision to pending legislation, according to the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association (AECA). The amendment, they say, would jeopardize billions of dollars of public and private investment by schools, public agencies, cities, businesses and homeowners.

Credit: Avinash Kaushik/Wikimedia Commons

Some have called the proposed legislation classic bait and switch.

Currently, under the net energy metering (NEM) program, customers are paid the full retail price for each kilowatt of electricity they generate and provide back to the utility. Under the proposed amendment, the rate of compensation could be dramatically reduced for existing customers who have already entered into long-term investments and other contracts, according to ACEA. Under the amendment, customers who have installed solar systems and other renewable energy projects under the NEM program before July 1, 2017, would be subject to the changes in the way they are compensated after 2017.

"Residents, farms and businesses who did the right thing and invested in solar now face the prospect of losing most of the savings they expect to receive in the future. California's One Million Solar Homes program is about to become one million broken promises," said Michael Boccadoro, executive director of AECA.

The controversial amendment (AB 327) will also make it impossible for solar installations on homes and businesses in the interim, the AECA contends.

"What homeowner or business is going to plunk down tens of thousands, let alone millions, of dollars on a solar system if they can't count on the long-term benefits?" Boccadoro added.

But policy experts disagree and say that the bill won't change rates. In fact, according to the amendment's author, Assemblymember Henry Perea, the bill would allow the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to create a more equitable rate structure. Further, a recent change in the language of AB 327 removes the possibility of ending existing net metering contracts and requires the CPUC to establish a transition period during which time existing contract holders can continue their contracts as usual.

For more:
- see the bill

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