Proposed Changes to Rooftop Solar Would Hurt Renters, Farms, and Schools

Proposed Changes to Rooftop Solar Would Hurt Renters, Farms, and Schools

Groups Call for CPUC to Reject Utility-Backed Proposal to Make Rooftop Solar Unaffordable for Renters, Farms, and Schools

New rules proposed yesterday by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would make it unaffordable for renters in multifamily housing, farms, and schools to benefit from rooftop solar and battery storage.  The proposed decision hurts renters in California by denying multifamily properties the ability to consume the energy that they produce on-site without selling it to the utility and buying it back at higher rates.

At issue are proposed changes to the Virtual Net Energy Metering (VNEM) and Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEMA) programs. The programs let properties with multiple electric meters install a single solar system for the entire property, sharing one solar system’s electricity and net metering credits with all customers and meters on that property. This brings the benefits of going solar to many types of consumers who otherwise would not benefit from Net Energy Metering (NEM), the program that makes solar more affordable by crediting consumers with solar systems for the excess energy they produce and share back with the energy grid.  

VNEM and NEMA are essential for making solar accessible and affordable for apartment complexes. Farms, which have separately metered irrigation wells, commercial developments, and school and college campuses also rely on the ability to share solar generation and net metering credits. 

Last December, the CPUC issued a decision on the value of solar credits for single-family homes. That decision includes a distinction between energy consumed on-site and energy exported to the utility electric grid. It drastically reduces compensation to customers for exported energy, but allows customers to continue using their own generated electricity in real time. Under this updated program, known as NEM-3, customers consuming the energy they generate results in them buying less energy from the utility.

The proposed decision on virtual net energy metering does not include a distinction between energy consumed on-site and energy exported to the utility electric grid. It effectively prohibits customers from buying less energy from the utility even when they produce and consume energy on-site in real time. 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.

The proposed decision is slated for a vote by the CPUC commissioners on September 21. If the CPUC finalizes the decision as proposed, it will likely end the ability of apartment buildings and many schools and farms to install solar and energy storage.

“Apartment complexes, farms, schools and commercial buildings represent a tremendous opportunity to grow California’s clean energy capacity while bringing the benefits of solar to many types of consumers who were previously left out,” said CALSSA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro. “Big utilities and our state’s energy regulators should not be treating people in apartments and other multimeter situations worse than consumers in single family homes. We know solar threatens utility profits, and they will stop at nothing to halt our progress – but this type of unfair discrimination is too much even for them.”  

Hundreds of organizations and businesses representing clean energy and renters' rights advocates, affordable housing, farms, and schools—as well more than 135 local elected officials—previously called on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reject proposals from the utilities and CPUC Public Advocate to make it nearly impossible for their constituencies to benefit from rooftop solar and battery storage. The top recommendation in those letters was maintaining a distinction between self-generation consumed on-site and energy exported to the electric grid.

In addition to individual elected officials from around the state, local jurisdictions spoke out against the utility proposals. 

A recently adopted resolution by the Oakland City Council calls on the CPUC and Governor Newsom “to reject any proposals that seek to frustrate or dismantle the ability of multifamily tenants and schools to avail themselves of the benefits of local, renewable, and affordable energy through rooftop solar and battery storage.” Instead, the City Council urged the CPUC to “approve a net energy metering tariff for multifamily housing and schools that includes full credits and savings for multifamily tenants and schools from customer generated energy.” 

Learn more from the California Solar and Storage Association:

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