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The California Public Utilities Commission is close to acting on a proposed ruling entered last month which could significantly affect the state’s solar power industry and the number of consumers allowed to participate in a program called “net metering,” a process where electric customers who have installed solar panels receive credit for excess power they generate and feed back into the power grid to offset consumption when they are using electricity but not generating it.

Net metering is primarily beneficial to residential solar customers, who generate the bulk of their power midday, when demand at home is low but instead peaks at area businesses. When power is being generated but not used, their meters effectively “spin backwards.”

At issue is the method of calculating the maximum number of consumers that can take advantage of such a program before investor-owned utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric can cut off future subscribers from being able to effectively sell their excess power back to the utility.

A “Net Energy Metering cap,” as imposed by the Commission, limits participation in the net metering program on a first come, first served basis to early adopters of home solar technology until the power they generate reaches five percent of “aggregate customer peak demand.” The definition of this last term is a point of contention between utilities and solar power industry groups.

Private state utilities have been using a method of calculating this peak demand by taking the highest one-time system peak demand throughout the system, averaged over a period ranging from five minutes to one hour. Solar advocates including business groups such as the Solar Energy Industries Association, however, favor a measurement consisting of the sum of peak demand levels for all energy customers, even though they might not all be drawing at peak demand at the same time.

Such a difference in calculation could mean twice as many utility ratepayers would be allowed to eventually participate in the net metering program using the formula devised by solar retail advocates as compared to the utilities’ methods.

“The State of California has aggressive and admirable renewable energy goals which will help move us towards a more sustainable future. If we allow the utilities to undermine the legislature by not adhering to the Net-metering rules, our goals will not be reached,” says Dan Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Solar Power, a local solar panel retailer. Sullivan shas appeared several times before the Commission to advocate for the more-generous calculation method, which would provide the net metering benefit to more consumers and, in turn, increase his ability to sell solar systems.

The Commission appears ready to rule in favor of the solar salesmen.

“Southern California Edison Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company shall calculate their respective caps on participation in the net energy metering program as five percent of aggregate customer peak demand, which is defined as the highest sum of all customers’ non-coincident peak demands that occurs in any calendar year,” reads a draft of the proposed Commission ruling.

Once enacted, a public workshop would convene within 45 days to determine how to properly calculate the aggregate customer peak demand, with instructions on the calculation to be issued to utilities within 90 days. Utilities would then have another 30 days to perform the calculations and report back to the commission.

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Comments

Founder May 11, 2012 @ 12:19 p.m.

This is a NO BRAINER, why should a PUBLIC UTILITY get to limit the amount of ENERGY the PUBLIC (that it serves) can add into the PUBLIC GRID ...

Why should SHAREHOLDERS PROFIT come before HELPING RATE PAYERS?

Utility shareholders have had years of record profits...

Enough is Enough!

If the CPUC allows this then their is NO JUSTICE in the current system and the voters of CA need to vote the redefine the current (pun intended) electric system. Our Leaders must disclose who has taken how much from these Utilities so that the voters know who THEY REPRESENT!

Every rate payer in CA should be up in arms against this additional money GRAB!

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Founder May 11, 2012 @ 12:24 p.m.

It is the Energy SYSTEM itself that is keeping the US from going Solar (of all flavors) much quicker, and ripping US off at the same time!

Many, many more would install Solar if the Utilities paid those that installed Solar for the energy they put INTO the grid, at the very same rate that the Utility charges for that same Energy to folks that take Energy OUT of the Grid! By not paying the same amount, the Utility shareholders receive additional money they do not deserve and the folks that have installed solar end up with a much longer payback period! You can be sure if these Utilities operate their own Solar Farms, they will pay themselves every penny they can...

Remember Solar usually adds Energy during peak period of use (daytime) and it is only fair that if the Utility charges more for Energy used during that period (by using Smart meters) then they should also credit that exact amount to those with Solar that add Energy during those periods!

It is time to STOP THE SOLAR ENERGY RIPOFF! http://is.gd/eQog1d

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tomjohnston May 12, 2012 @ 10:44 a.m.

We installed solar pv and solar thermal on our home in Los Angeles between 1992 and 1993. We also installed both on a vacation home in Palm Springs in 2003. Both installations were well before the option of receiving any credit was made possible. Remember that it wasn't until Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law, that it was even possible. Sure it would be nice to receive a higher level of compensation for excess energy returned to the grid, but after years of getting nothing, receiving anything is a bonus, at least as far as I'm concerned.

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Founder May 12, 2012 @ 7:54 p.m.

I do not mean to poo poo getting some money but imagine if your panels 100 watts "generated" the same amount of money (in credit) as a similar 100 watts that Sempra generated from their solar panels or any other device! Why should they rip you off and give the money to their shareholders; especially since they are a PUBLIC UTILITY!

WHO ARE THEY REALLY SERVING?

Another question is why should Sempra limit the amount of solar energy "WE" can generate; they should take Energy from US before importing it from other states and or less Green generators like Nuclear!

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Eren May 16, 2012 @ 9:05 p.m.

If the government is providing incentives to residents to install solar and "go green" then the utility companies should also comply and support. They have had a monopoly in supplying electricity forever and we had no recourse. Raising the limits on net metering should be pushed by the government as well! The rich get richer....and the middle class, well they are diminishing!

http://solaruniversecalifornia.com/sce

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Founder May 17, 2012 @ 6:38 a.m.

Ypu have hit the nail on the head... The Utility wants to retai its market share and CONTROL of our Energy production so it can "game" the system for its own profit...

Why should "their" energy generated by solar get more money per watt than "our" solar energy for the same watt?

If the CPUC allows this to happen then they are only looking out for the Utility and the CPUC should be scrapped by the voters in California ASAP!

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Founder May 25, 2012 @ 1:51 p.m.

We Won! http://votesolar.org/2012/05/we-won-cpuc-unanimously-approves-net-metering-expansion-in-california/ snip Today the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously voted to give more Californians access to net metering credit for solar power. The 5-0 vote on a Proposed Decision will protect this important solar consumer right for tens of thousands of California homes, schools, businesses and public buildings.

Solar policy victories don’t come easily – so today is truly a day to celebrate! Thanks to the hard work of organizations and solar companies across the state, not to mention the nearly 60,000 Californians who expressed their support for net metering, California will continue to be increasingly powered by the sun. Extra special thanks to Governor Brown and the Commissioners themselves for fighting so hard on behalf of this program.

Net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable clean power they put on the grid for others to use.

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