California utilities seek net metering 2.0 changes, repeal


Privately owned utilities in the United States are not passively accepting the ongoing existence of retail-rate net metering for PV system owners, or anything that looks resembles it. In fact, while the ink is still drying on California’s successor policy to net metering, the state’s three large investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have already submitted a legal challenge.

On Tuesday, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) formally requested that California regulators cancel the decision. On the same day, Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) petitioned for changes to the program which the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA) says would “put solar out of reach for a majority of customers”.

Specifically, SCE and SDG&E are asking for a rehearing, and for the commission to include the cost of transmission in its “non-bypassable” charges imposed on electricity exported to the grid by PV customers. They are also calling for elimination of a 20-year grandfathering provision for customers taking service under the new policy.

PG&E and SCE note that the commission did not conduct a full analysis of the costs and benefits of distributed PV, which it put off until 2019. Additionally, they argue that the sustainable growth of the solar industry was privileged over other factors including evaluation of costs and benefits in the net metering 2.0 decision.

The request to include the transmission costs in "non-bypassable" charges was already rejected during the proceeding before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which resulted in a final policy on January 28. CalSEIA notes that this process lasted 22 months and extended one month past a deadline imposed by the state legislature.

However, the final decision also came down 3-2, which indicates a degree of vulnerability.

The ball is now in CPUC’s court. CalSEIA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro says that CPUC counsel will now review these requests, and make a recommendation whether or not to consider them.

“(The) big question is whether utilities will be happy enough with small changes or if they will pursue this with all of their legal might,” Del Chiaro told pv magazine. “If they are not satisfied with what the Commission does, they can appeal to the Court of Appeals.”

Del Chiaro also notes that these appeals are filed using ratepayer funds. This is a point of contention for many solar advocates, as the regulatory compact grants IOUs their monopoly position, a position which they are defending using customer money.