Proposed decision could deal another blow to California rooftop solar

By Shannon Kelleher

California regulators will vote this month on proposed key changes to programs that incentivize solar energy installations at apartment buildings, schools, and farms in a move critics fear will put the benefits of clean, renewable energy out of reach for many people.

“The proposed changes will hurt all rooftop solar, and the state’s decarbonization goals,” said Self Help Enterprises, a low-income housing program in Visalia, California, in an email to The New Lede. “However, low-income populations will be hit especially hard since a higher percentage of their income goes to rent and utilities.”

Hundreds of groups that advocate for clean energy and environmental justice, farms, and schools have signed letters protesting the proposals along with 135 local officials.

The vote is currently set for Nov. 16 after being postponed multiple times in the face of strong opposition. The vote comes about seven months after California’s net metering (NEM) 3.0 policy went into effect, which drastically decreased the value of the solar energy credits that homeowners receive when they share excess energy they produce with the grid.

The latest proposed net metering changes are related to the state’s Virtual Net Energy Metering (VNEM) and Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEMA) programs, which benefits renters, schools districts, and farmers by allowing customers with properties that have multiple electric meters to install a single solar energy system. The programs enable customers with solar systems to receive credits for sharing the excess energy they produce with the grid.

The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC)’s proposed changes would require properties to sell the electricity they generate to the utility company before buying it back at full retail price.