A new lawsuit which has been filed at the federal court in California is likely to change the future of the solar industry. The suit filed by CAlifornians for Renewable Energy (CARE) against the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) offers a wholesale “avoided cost” alternative in the struggle for the future of California’s rooftop solar industry. The lawsuit alleges the CPUC has denied compensation to NEM customer-generators at the IOUs’ full avoided cost which includes both energy and capacity costs the utility avoids. Avoided cost is a federally regulated wholesale compensation rate.
The states three largest investor owned utilities PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E, utility workers unions along with TURN and NRDC have proposals to sharply reduce the retail bill credits that residents with solar panels attached to their homes receive in exchange for excess energy they generate [export]. These parties propose imposing a new monthly grid benefit charge on solar customer generators, as well as other changes to the net energy metering program.
Speaking about the lawsuit, Michael Boyd, the President of the Board of Directors of CARE says,
“Under the current NEM program customer-generators receive no compensation for their installed capacity. They receive a retail energy credit for any excess energy they export. With full avoided cost compensation 100% of NEM customer generator capacity is already delivered and therefore customer-generators would be eligible for compensation for their installed capacity in addition to the energy they produce.”
The IOU proposals' supporters say residents who have solar panels are being overcompensated for their renewable energy, allowing them to avoid electric grid costs that run into the billions of dollars statewide. They contend that forces everyone else, including disadvantaged communities, to foot the bill.
But the opponents, rooftop solar workers , their unions, environmental groups and EJ groups say many of the policy changes would be little more than an anti-competitive profit grab by the investor owned utilities that could devastate the rooftop solar industry, hampering efforts to decentralize the grid and make it more resistant to wildfire risk and blackouts.
This lawsuit comes at a time when the state's net metering policy and the push for green energy is dogged with claims of inequality. The lawsuit addresses this inequity by separating retail import rates from wholesale export rates to insure non-participant customers are charged the same retail rates as participants are, while participants are compensated fairly for the behind the meter renewable energy they export at full avoided cost as authorized under federal law.
For a copy of the lawsuit at CPUC's website go to: https://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M385/K618/385618634.PDF
For a copy of CPUC's response to the lawsuit go to: https://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M393/K925/393925635.PDF