Solar is big in California. It represents approximately half of the nation’s total solar energy industry. Which is why a recent decision to protect fair net metering rules in California was an important win for homeowners in the state.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a fair net metering policy for homeowners. This decision allows homeowners to continue to sell their electricity back to utilities at retail rates.
However, the new program calls for solar customers to pay a one time interconnection fee of approximately $100. They must also pay about 2 cents per kilowatt hour of conventional energy consumed, which would add up to about another $10 per month. All-in-all, this does not put much of a dent into the massive savings possible with solar ownership.
This is really a win for fairness and equity. Electricity from solar panels is just as valuable as conventional electricity. Actually, its even more valuable since it is a source of clean energy as opposed to dirty fossil fuels. Solar also provides a value to utilities by helping to create energy and reduce stress on the grid during early peak usage times.
A common objection to net metering is that solar customers don’t pay for their share of grid costs and overall maintenance. Is it quite possible that these costs have already been paid for through decades of homeowners paying their power bills? Could this objection be the best defense of an industry attempting to prevent competition and a loss of customer base?
Should there be some concessions made to help provide for a smoother transition to clean energy sources? Absolutely. Solar customers can pay slightly more for the small amount of conventional energy that they use if that helps utilities prepare for a world in which distributed solar power is commonplace.
The bottom line is that homeowners who do their part to help create a more sustainable energy landscape should be rewarded, not punished.
The rest of the country will look to California for guidance on net metering, not Nevada. Renewable energy must be supported at both utility and residential scales.
There’s no doubt that solar power will play a large role in supplying energy for the United States in the coming years. Homeowners should be allowed to play a role in an emerging energy marketplace that is no longer controlled by a monopoly. This is the true environmental and economic potential that solar holds.