California pushes a new plan to cut rooftop solar incentives
(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)
In June, as California began rolling out a new solar incentive program to reduce its rapidly spiraling energy costs, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, proposed giving homeowners “community benefits” to offset some of the costs of rooftop solar installations. But since then, as many other states have done, California has put off making a decision about whether it will go ahead with the plan.
Now, the state’s top energy regulator is saying that it’s too early to weigh in on the community benefits plan, and he wants the Legislature to look into it instead.
According to a proposal released on Monday by the California Energy Commission, the state’s Energy Commission estimates that the incentives would have the effect of “reducing the expected costs of installing rooftop solar systems by about $4.5 million by 2020.”
The proposed plan would replace a rooftop solar program that was established in 2007 and is administered by the California Energy Commission. The previous rooftop solar program gave California residents the opportunity to own rooftop solar by charging less than grid power, under a so-called net metering program, and then selling back surplus electricity to the utility.
The new program would do away with net metering and give homeowners the right to sell excess electricity back to the utility in the form of a discounted electricity rate, in effect, creating the first community benefits program for residential solar-power systems.
Under the proposal, community benefits would be “consistent with those of utility-scale solar” installations, where the power producer is a utility and the customer is a customer of the utility. In California, that is not always the case.
The plan also includes a provision allowing homeowners who sell their excess electricity to the utility for less than $0.025 per kilowatt-hour to qualify for incentives.
“The program would benefit every customer in California, including small businesses and low-income families,” according to the proposal. “The program would enable low-income residents and customers of small businesses to participate in solar power by purchasing a discounted electricity rate, thereby providing an investment opportunity with the potential to achieve energy savings for customers and