State regulators acknowledge solar’s benefits to the grid, reject SDG&E proposed fee

Thanks to a strong outpouring of public comment from people like you, state regulators at the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) rebuffed utility lobbyists on several fronts this Spring.

SDG&E $39/month fee rejected

In March, the CPUC officially rejected San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal to add $39 / month to their customers’ energy bills. Over 2,500 San Diegans flooded the CPUC with comments opposing the plan.

This strong voice of public opposition, combined with advocacy by groups like Vote Solar, helped convince CPUC that huge monthly fixed charges are damaging to consumers and discourage peope from reducing their electricity use. At a time when the utilities are obviously struggling to provide reliable power, the CPUC appears to recognize that we should be encouraging, not discouraging people like you from making your own energy rather than further burdening the grid.

Nice job!! Here’s an article from the San Diego Union Tribune summing up the situation, and also includes a link to the full CPUC decision.

Benefits of solar tentatively recognized by CPUC

In May, the CPUC took a step forward in recognizing the benefits of solar. This is thanks in part to over 1,000 solar users across the state who submitted a comment, helping to overcome utility industry lobbying.

  • CPUC is in the middle of a process of recalculating the Net Metering credit for future solar users.
  • They do this by measuring the value of your extra solar energy as compared to other energy sources. The higher the value of your extra solar, the higher the Net Metering credit (The credit on your energy bill for the extra solar energy you give back to the grid).
  • The utilities, whose goal is to cut the Net Metering credit, lobbied the CPUC to ignore evidence that rooftop solar is reducing both pollution and the cost of running the grid. If the utilities had succeeded, it would have caused CPUC to reduce the value of your extra solar energy, and cut the Net Metering credit.
The upshot
  • The CPUC decided they would indeed recognize the fact that solar reduces the cost of running the grid. That’s good because rooftop solar and efficiency helped the state cancel or scale back over twenty power line projects in 2018 alone, saving the state over $2.6 billion. Here’s our fact sheet that refutes many of the utility arguments against rooftop solar and storage.
  • They also indicated they would hold firm and properly recognize how your solar reduces pollution that contributes to global warming. That’s good because every kilowatt of your clean solar energy replaces dirtier electricity you would otherwise buy from the utility.
  • Finally, the CPUC indicated that they agree that rooftop solar makes the entire grid safer and more resilient. That’s super important because rooftop solar is allowing millions of people to use the grid less frequently, which reduces the risk of wildfires and outages for everyone.
The devil is in the details

CPUC now has to do the right math to ensure that they properly set the value of your extra solar energy. For example:

  • Your solar helps reduce the amount of natural gas power the utilities have to use.
  • This directly reduces pollution from pipeline leaks and helps avoid natural gas price spikes.
  • But utilities are lobbying the CPUC to only count natural gas produced in the state, even though 90% of our natural gas power comes from out of state.
  • Doing math the utility way would slash the Net Metering credit by nearly three cents per kWh. That’s a fifteen percent cut for the average solar user.

These are precisely the type of back-room details where the utility lobbyists do the most damage to solar — and precisely where your voice is critical! More background from our friends at Vote Solar and SEIA.

We and our allies are watching CPUC’s next steps – and the utilities’ – very closely. Check back at this blog for updates.

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