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New Rooftop Solar Laws in California Benefit Homeowners and Utilities

In the last week to sign bills, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 327 that allows utilities to charge all ratepayers for costs incurred to the grid by rooftop solar and allows those who have it to 'run the meter backwards', known as net metering.
October 10, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Chris Clarke explains the controversy behind AB 327. It allows utilities to charge a fixed fee of up to $10 "to recoup what they claim are costs unfairly incurred in providing rooftop solar customers backup power during times when their solar panels aren't producing power". The charge was opposed by those who saw it as regressive and unrelated to the power consumption of the household or presence of rooftop solar. However, as the governor noted in his signing message (PDF), it allows the Calif. Public Utility Commission to design new rates to give discounts to low-income households.

Solar owners will benefit with the removal of the state's net metering cap, currently "5 percent of each utility's average peak power demand", that will ensure new customers for the state's solar installation industry. Consequently the Solar Energy Industry Association "applaud(ed) Gov. Brown for his unwavering commitment to clean energy"

Under current arrangements, rooftop solar owners may not receive the full financial benefit of their system. AB 327 changes that billing system to the benefit of the homeowner.

Under net metering arrangements (also called Net Energy Metering, or NEM), rooftop solar owners can run their electric meters backward when their solar panels are feeding excess energy into the grid.

Brown also signed AB 217 that "extends two programs designed to help lower-income Californians go solar", one being for multi-family housing. Funding comes from "channel(ing) 10 percent of the California Solar Initiative's (CSI) funding toward helping California's poorest residents go solar.:

Under the programs, very low income households can get solarized with a subsidy paying all the costs. A sliding scale reduces the subsidy for people with more resources.

The CSI would have exhausted its funding in 2016. It will now be extended for another five years.

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Published on Monday, October 7, 2013 in KCET
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