Controversial California solar bill undergoes major revisions


California’s controversial Assembly Bill 1139, an act which looked to cut net metering rates paid to rooftop solar customers and remove some benefits for existing solar customers, has been significantly revised by the State Assembly.

The revisions removed a section that would have lowered net metering rates to wholesale electricity rates. That would have worked out to roughly 3 cents per kWh, a drop from the current range of 20+ cents per kWh. The revision also returns the length of time that legacy net metering rates would be given to existing customers to 20 years, instead of 10 years.

The watered-down revision of AB 1139 also gives California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) an extra six months to make its own decision regarding a net metering successor tariff, extending the deadline to August 2022. The initial bill included provisions that would have taken effect had the CPUC not hit a February deadline. Even so, the revised version keeps the provisions intact, regardless of whether regulators meet the deadlines.

This would mean that the bill as it stands would get rid of requirements that the CPUC consider the sustainable growth of the solar industry and distributed energy resources (DERs) when making decisions and that utilities consider the grid cost savings from DERs when making planning decisions.

According to an analysis done by Philip Shen of Roth Capital Partners, the probability of AB 1139’s passage is “low.” Shen said that even if the Assembly passed the bill, the Senate likely would reject. If it were to pass both chambers, Shen said that Gov. Gavin Newsom almost certainly would veto it.

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