Solar Bill of Rights introduced in California

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Across the United States, home and business owners are increasingly demanding their right as citizens to generate their own electricity. And it should not be surprising that this movement is the most advanced in California, where PV system owners and the solar industry have come together to form a dedicated membership organization, the Solar Rights Alliance (SRA), to protect that right.

Yesterday this movement took a further step, with a statement of the principle of the right to self-generate and connect to the grid proposed as law. California Senators Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and Jim Nielsen (R-Fresno) have introduced the Solar Bill of Rights (S-288), which would open up the bulk power system to the participation of behind-the-meter resources. Per the bill text:

The bill would require the PUC to collaborate with the Independent System Operator to modify existing tariffs to remove barriers to the participation of customer-sited energy resources in programs intended to provide energy, capacity, and ancillary services for the bulk power system.

The bill would also ensure that the owners of distributed solar and storage “are not subject to discriminatory fees or charges” and require regulators to establish a streamlined and standardized process for utilities. Both of these actions would apply to both investor-owned and public utilities like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Imperial Irrigation District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Additionally, the bill would have utilities look at compensating distributed generation and storage for the resiliency benefits it offers, by requiring them to “consider one or more tariffs for customer-sited energy storage and renewable energy systems to support grid reliability and community resiliency in the event of emergencies or grid outages”.

This effort is backed not only by Solar Rights Alliance, but also Vote Solar and the California Solar and Storage Alliance (CALSSA), as the main advocacy groups for distributed solar in California. Additionally it has the backing of co-author Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County), as well as four assembly members who have signed on as co-authors.

Furthermore Senator Wiener is on the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, which may be one of the first stops of the bill.

If the bill does become law it could be the first such piece of legislation in the nation to explicitly enshrine the right to participate in the grid using rooftop PV, and could be a model for other states; however few other states have the kind of dedicated organization comprised of homeowners that SRA represents.

Wiener and Nielsen announced the bill at an event at the California State Capitol yesterday, which can be seen in the following video: