This February, following several weeks of industry outcry, public protest, and political leader involvement, California’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) 3.0 was successfully delayed. NEM 3.0 was an anti-rooftop solar proposal that slashed the value for homeowners and sweetened the pot for the major investor-owned electric utility companies in California.
As originally proposed, NEM 3.0 would have cut the payments made by utility companies to rooftop solar owners for exporting their excess PV production back to the grid. EQ Analysts said the proposal would lead to a 57-71% overall reduction in solar savings for homeowners.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently presented revisions, and the revised NEM 3.0 remains a utility-friendly, homeowner-unfriendly proposal. The revision includes new structures that cut home solar value, including a “glide path”, non-bypassable charges, and a tariff to boost community solar.
The newly-introduced “non-bypassable charges” would add $0.05/kWh to a customer’s bill, whether or not they own solar. These charges would apply to the electrons generated by the customer’s rooftop solar array and delivered to their own homes. Regulations make it very difficult, or even illegal, to disconnect from the grid entirely in many areas in California.
The revisited NEM 3.0 is met with heavy opposition from environmental groups, workforce and labor groups, solar industry advocates, and Californians who support personal choice and oppose electric utility monopoly. These groups are now organizing a rally to submit public comments to Governor Gavin Newsom and the CPUC.
The “Don’t Tax the Sun” rally is planned for 10:30 am on June 2. It will take place at Grand Park, Los Angeles, and the CPUC Building in San Francisco. RSVP links to the event, organized by the California Solar and Storage Association, can be found here.
Additionally, public comment can be submitted to the CPUC online by June 10th, by following this link.
What’s at stake?
California’s rooftop solar industry represents over 1.4 million homes, small businesses, and other structures topped with PV. The state accounts for 50% of rooftop solar installations in the United States, and of the 230,000 people employed in the solar industry, as many as 68,000 jobs are supported by the state’s rooftop solar business. The proposal is expected to do significant damage to this industry, which is largely made up of small businesses and local employees.
Based on California’s clean energy goals, as much as 28.5 GW of rooftop solar needs to be installed through 2045, according to Environment California. If all this capacity were instead installed on land, 148,000 acres would be needed to support it, an area about half the size of Los Angeles. Rooftop solar directly mitigates energy sprawl, the increase of land use dedicated to producing electricity.
Last month, Regulators from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a comprehensive report outlining the state’s path to carbon neutrality, and chief among the recommendations was support for solar, specifically rooftop solar. The NEM proposal is in direct contrast with CARB’s recommendations, said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook.
“It is imperative the governor reject the plot by utilities to undermine one of the main pillars of CARB’s roadmap to ensure renewable energy is the dominant source of electricity in the state. Anything less would send a clear signal that felonious, corrupt companies like PG&E can decelerate California’s progress in addressing the climate crisis,” said Cook.