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Are New California Solar Fees Unfair To Non-Solar Users?

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The California Public Utilities Commission is in the process of developing a new set of rules governing how much solar panel owners should be charged to use the state's utility grid.

Last week, the CPUC raised fees for solar panel owners but did not approve the higher charges requested by the state's utility companies, including San Diego Gas & Electric.

Solar industry supporters hailed the decision as a victory for renewable energy in California.

“It’s a win in the sense that it’s a first in a number of decisions and a number of steps in redesigning and reconfiguring this larger clean energy landscape,” Jack Clark, director of programs for the Center for Sustainable Energy, told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday.

He said that he thinks the decision is a compromise.

"I think it sends a signal across the nation on California's commitment to this industry,” Clark said. “When we're looking to help these markets scale and develop over the long term, we need other pieces of the puzzle to be put in place as well."

Clark said a vote by Congress in December to extend the Investment Tax Credit for solar through 2021 is critical to the future of the solar industry as well.

The utilities said non-solar users will be forced to pay more to subsidize solar power.

"With the decision, customer bills may go up $300 annually by 2025," said Amber Albrecht, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric. "Little has been done to alleviate how the program is done to ensure that people are paying for their use of the grid."

Albrecht told KPBS Midday Edition that she thinks customers will be upset down the road.

“We have to be looking at these policies in a way where they do continue the growth of solar in a sustainable way,” she said. “We need to be looking at the future.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misnamed the Center for Sustainable Energy. We regret the error.

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