Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

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

Are New California Solar Fees Unfair To Non-Solar Users?
Are New California Solar Fees Unfair To Non-Solar Users? GUESTS:Jack Clark, director of programs, for the Center for Sustainable Energy Amber Albrecht, spokeswoman, San Diego Gas & Electric

California's goal is to move the state to renewable energy sources. How do you charge for something? The California Public utilities commission is in the process of developing rules governing how much solar panel owners should be charged to use the grid. They raised these last month for solar owners but did approve the higher charges including San Diego gas and electric. The seller industry held the decision as support. Utilities said on solar users will be forced to pay more to subsidize solar power. Joining me or Jack Clark -- Jack Clark, director of programs, for the California Center for Sustainable Energy and Amber Albrecht, spokeswoman, San Diego Gas & Electric. Can you tell us why they feel is a step forward? When the states and local government and energy industry specifically, the net energy metering policy is a goal component. Renewable energy goals and industry. It is a win in this sense is the first of a number of decisions and steps of the larger clean energy landscape. Let's get to exactly what kinds of additional fees these panel owners will have to be paying. The fees that are changing for solar owners are for newer solar owners. Many of the residents that have sold on them right now will be little effect to them whatsoever. The fees that are changing our for new solar adopters in this community. Those fees in part include an interconnection fee of roughly $720, the details of the numbers are still to be worked out. On average they look like hundred $20. Will be an increase in the non-by passable charge the which roughly could the from $5-$10 a month. So these are new fees for new owners. One of the things that CPUC didn't approve was an electricity transmission charge. Why were they opposed? Was it the thought that if the like that can wipe out the savings the solar user gets when they use their own solar power. Yes. The challenge CPUC had was addressing a new structure and sustaining a viable solar industry. The solar industry said the chassis in charge would make it more difficult -- difficult for them and customers to propose of value proposition that continues to be compelling wherein these solar adopters see savings moving force. This decision is a compromise. In the solar energy, it looks as though they are happy with it. It is the first step in many that we need to conclude on as an organization and as an industry. I'm going to have to ask you to try to explain what that adventure -- net energy means. That means any energy you are generating, you get the full retail value for an utility is there to deliver you energy you need and there may be differences in that amount but you are only filled for that difference. You are in essence selling some of your own energy back to the utility? Yes. Is that subject to change the whole net energy metering structure. Is that what they are looking at now to get new standards on how to go forward with that? I want to remind customers if you have seller in your group we are discussing today will not affect you for 20 years. Any of these changes you'll be continued to be billed the same way you were. CPUC is looking at how should deter customers be built. And make sure the solar industry continues to grow in a sustainable way. I know the utilities are saying because the state regulators didn't give the okay to an electricity transmission charge that none solar users have to pick up the bill. Can you explain the company's position on that? That charge was part of the proposed decision. There was something when they came out with their initial draft in December with something they saw as reasonable to include in these cost and it was a last minute change that got a lot of discussion. Essentially with this decision, customers who don't have seller on their roof are going to continue to pay more on their electric bills to the town -- tune of about $300 a year. Why? Are there other people using the grid who are not paying for it? Essentially with the current system because of that net component you're not incentivized to use that energy when you're solar panels are actually producing it. They are delivering the power at night and we need to keep the lights on. We also need to make sure all the customers are benefiting from the grid are charged equally. How do sustainable energy advocates sustain the great? When we look at the landscape we shouldn't look at this decision in a silo. There are more solar industry workers working across the states that utility workers. This is a growing industry. We have to be careful with whatever changes we make. Likewise, we have 20,000 electric vehicles on the streets. The way we interact with energy broadly speaking is changing. Today is to go to consumers we're in this with you. We are sending a signal to consumers utilities and industry to say this is part of California's future. When we look at the charges or the fees included, is a lot more information the CPUC needs to make these more equitable over the long term. There's a number of proceedings and decisions that will help factor in here. I don't know that it's clear yet that these fees will be as large as some stakeholders assume they will be over the long-term. Amber, that's brings up the fact that more fees requested and other utilities. They are bound to slow down the progress of solar in California. Yet they say it's totally supports the state's renewable goal. We to support that. We deliver one third of our electricity 200% of our customers. Just last week we had a great decision of building additional charging infrastructures. We connect solar rooftop faster than any other utility in the state. We have to look at these policies in a way where they continue the growth of solar in a sustainable way. When you have these decisions and they benefit the few at the cost of money, essentially, you're not putting a good policy in place that is sustainable for the long-term and we need to look at the future and the policies be put in place down. Down the road, customers will get upset. You're going to start to see people recognizing what the policy could mean for them. Is there anyway the general public can weigh in on this at all? Can they address the CPUC ? The only way we resolve these types of issues is working collaboratively with utilities, industry and homeowners and businesses. They do make rounds throughout the states, I take public comment and some of their proceedings and workshops. We have public meetings and no net others also have meetings available to them. We should be doing more than this. When you look at the climate action plan and their goals, it's important the public's voice is heard. The other thing I would mention, there is a provision here that allows for greater access to multi unit dwellers. There are provisions in here that open up greater access to people branching and don't know their own buildings and that is important factor. I've been speaking with Jack Clark, director of programs, for the California Center for Sustainable Energy and Amber Albrecht, spokeswoman, San Diego Gas & Electric. Thank you so much.

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.

Advertisement

“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.

Advertisement

"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.”

Corrected: June 13, 2024 at 7:18 AM PDT
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misnamed the Center for Sustainable Energy. We regret the error.