August Net Metering News Round-Up

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Welcome to the August net metering round up. It’s been a busy month. If you haven’t been able to keep up, never fear. This is where you can come for your update on the latest developments, policies, and controversies surrounding net metering.

Another temporary solar win for Nevada

Last month we told you that Nevada would be hitting its net metering cap sooner than expected. When this occurred on August 20th, it caused the expected problems for the solar industry in Nevada. Things took a turn for the better on August 26th, when the PUC voted to keep rooftop solar on its current path until the commission reaches a new decision by the end of the year.

During the 2015 legislative session, solar advocates tried  to increase the cap from 3 percent, or 235 MW. Because consensus could not be reached, Senate bill 374 was passed, appointing a commission to reach a decision by the end of the year. The 235 mark was supposed to be a long way off. NV Energy did not expect that cap to be reached until the end of 2016, although solar industry advocates expected it to be reached much earlier.

The bill also calls for the commission to “study establishing a tariff for net metering by the end of 2015.” However, when the cap was reached, NV Energy filed an application for a new net-metering policy as well, one that would have added three charges, one for basic service, one for demand, and one for energy. This request was also deferred to the original deadline.

Bryan Miller, co-chairman of The Alliance for Solar Choice, said “The hard work is now before the Commissioners to issue long-term rules.”

In the midst of this struggle, Vivint pulled out of Nevada. The company had only been operating in the state for two weeks.

Colorado also stays the course

August 26th was a good day for solar. In addition to maintaining the status quo in Nevada, Colorado solar received the same news. Xcel had petitioned the PUC to examine whether the NEM rate was fair.  Xcel wanted to ensure that distributed generation customers were not receiving hidden benefits and paying their share of grid costs.

After over a year of review, the PUC ruled that no changes were needed in the program. A spokesman for the PUC, Terry Bote, told the Boulder Daily Camera that the PUC voted 3-0 “to maintain the status quo for the net metering program…”  During the deliberations, PUC Chairman Joshua Epel also made it clear that if solar customers meet technical requirements, utilities must allow interconnection.

Mixed messages in Arizona

After the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) recommended that Tuscon Electric Power (TEP) wait for their next full rate case to request changes to rooftop solar agreement, TEP formally withdrew its proposal.   The company plans to file by the end of the year.

However, that hasn’t stopped them from telling customers that their bills were going to go up. Until now.

TEP did not immediately take down the information on their website about the March filing, which stated that the rates would likely increase in June. This began to sound like the rates would be changed retroactively. The ACC ruled this month that TEP had to change the wording, which they have done.

TEP maintains that the company was simply trying to do the right thing by keeping the customer informed. Solar advocates say that the move has had a negative impact on the number of new solar customers.

Another utility, Trico Electric Cooperative has also withdrawn a net metering proposal in favor of filing with its full rate proposal. Both companies expect to file their full rate cases by the end of the year.

With Arizona Public Service (APS) however, the process has followed a different path. The ACC agreed to open proceedings to consider additional charges on solar customers outside of the full rate case. In agreeing to hear the case, the ACC disregarded the recommendations of solar advocates and an administrative law judge.

California looks to the future

On August 3rd, California utilities including Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) requested that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) make significant changes to the net metering process in the state – including lower payments and new charges.

Meanwhile, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Vote Solar and SolarCity have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to keep the payments at the current rate until 2020.

Last week, one of the utilities, PG&E, refined their initial estimates of how much the proposed changes would impact solar customers. In the filing, they reported that the proposed changes would lower the amount that homeowners would save on their bill by around $20. Last week they amended that estimate and stated that solar customers would actually see an increase of around $13 in their monthly bills.

Michigan looks to end net metering altogether

Legislation has been introduced in Michigan to end the net metering program. Senate Bill 438, introduced by Senator John Proos, proposes that all the power generated from an individual system would have to be sold first to the utility at wholesale prices, then purchased back from them at retail rates. This is a type of Value of Solar (VOS) program.

Solar advocates say the bill removes incentives for individuals to go solar by extending the payback period of the system.

Massachusetts Governor files solar bill

Governor Baker filed a solar bill on August 7th. The governor’s bill raised the net metering cap to 1600 MW – and provided provisions for continued raises when the cap is met.  At the same time, however, it reduced the calculation of net metering credits. This approach helps out with the problem of reaching net metering caps in the short term, but may cause problems in the long run with the change in compensation.