California proposes “blatant seizure of property” in solar ruling

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is soon to vote on a proposed decision that is expected to be harmful to the value of rooftop solar for renters in multifamily housing, farms, and schools.

The decision would disallow residents of multi-meter properties to consume their own rooftop solar production, even if they own the solar array. The policy forces customers to first sell their solar production to the utility, and then buy it back at higher rates.

“The CPUC is proposing a blatant seizure of property,” said the Solar Rights Alliance.

California’s existing Virtual Net Metering and Net Energy Metering Aggregation programs allow properties with multiple meters to install a single solar array for the entire property, sharing one system’s electricity and associated net metering credits with all customers and meters on the property. The proposed decision states that these customers should be limited in how much of their own solar production they can use, even if it is stored in their own battery.

“It would force customers in multi-meter properties—such as renters, small farmers, schools, and colleges—to sell all of their generation to the utility at low rates and buy it back at full retail rates,” said the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA).

“Under this scheme, [multi-meter customers] would lose all of the savings that single-family homeowners get,” said Solar Rights Alliance.

The decision to not let multi-meter properties consume electricity from a system they own and operate comes with a clear motive: profit protection. If a rooftop solar owner is using their own electricity, they aren’t buying it from the utility.

The proposed decision is gaining public infamy similar to the NEM 3.0 decision that has wreaked havoc on single-family rooftop solar in California. Despite round after round of anti-NEM 3.0 public comments and rallies that drew in thousands of California citizens, CPUC pushed the decision forward. Now, residential solar is experiencing a massive market contraction nationwide as a result.

The NEM 3.0 decision was backed by the three major investor-owned utilities in California based on a rationale that renters were being left behind by lucrative single-family home installations. Now a year later, CPUC and the three large utilities are coming after renters’ rights.

While the NEM 3.0 outcome was undesirable for California citizens, the many months of protest did bear some positive results. CPUC attempted to pass a similar invasion of personal property in NEM 3.0, disallowing customers from directly using their rooftop solar electricity generation and instead forcing them to cycle it through the utility’s meter first. Protest and public comment forced CPUC to throw out the decision, and instead implement an 80% cut in net metering payment rates.

“However, if the CPUC takes away the fundamental solar right for renters, there’s no doubt they will try again for homeowners at some point,” said Solar Rights Alliance.

Solar Rights Alliance is sounding the alarm for renters, farmers, and affordable housing advocates to voice their opinion on the proposed decision, which was recently pushed forward to November 2.

The organization has details on how to submit public comments and speak with legislators here.

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