California pro-solar protestors march in defence of net metering and ITC

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

Hundreds of pro-solar protestors and representatives from industry and advocacy groups marched on California’s state capital yesterday, intent on defending net metering policies and lobbying for extension of the investment tax credit (ITC).

California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) and The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), a group formed by several big rooftop solar installers, organised yesterday’s event, which was attended by solar industry workers and their families in yellow t-shirts emblazoned with the slogans, “Solar created my job”, and, “Keep solar jobs going!”.

TASC claimed that over 200 people attended the event, arranged in response to plans put forward by California’s three investor-owned utilities for solar support programmes to replace existing net metering arrangements.

Due to falling costs and the relative success of support programmes in fostering large amounts of solar deployment, the state’s regulator, the California Public Utilities’ Commission (CPUC), requested the utilities to come up with their suggestions for successor tariffs to net metering, which exists in one form or another in 43 of the US states.

Two of the three, Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), submitted their proposals around the beginning of August with the other, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), to follow. Presuming they are accepted, CPUC will then have to decide by the end of the year which tariffs will apply, although the changes will not actually be implemented until 2017, or when the three utilities reach a threshold of obtaining 5% of their electricity generation through net metered solar, whichever comes first.

In common with similar ongoing movements in other parts of the US, the plans submitted by SCE and PG&E call for monthly fees to be applied to the tariffs of future residential solar connections, ostensibly to pay for the use of the electrical grid. SCE pointed out that solar system owners will remain reliant on grid infrastructure for some of their electricity and claimed that some costs are being borne by non-solar utility customers. In a statement circulated to press to lay out its proposal, the utility also said it would not raise additional profit from the new plan.

“Customers who generate power remain connected to the power network and in fact it is the network that enables them to import and export power from their systems. This proposal does not increase the total amount of money or profits SCE receives from its customers,” the utility said.

In addition, residents who newly install solar would receive less for their net metered electricity than before under both utilities’ plans. TASC and CALSEIA claim that this, combined with the expected drop of the federal ITC at the end of 2017 from 30% to 10% mean that the solar industry in California faces “a major cliff within the next fifteen months” as the policy changes come into effect.

CALSEIA’s executive director, Bernadette Del Chiaro, said that yesterday’s event was about saving jobs in the state.

“This cliff we are speeding toward could unnecessarily cost the state tens of thousands of quality jobs, which is the opposite direction we should be headed,” Del Chiaro said.

In a statement, TASC said the CPUC was “under pressure” from the three utilities to “end net metering and thereby crush the rooftop solar industry”. The group lamented the fact this would mean limited choices for customers who wanted “cleaner, cheaper energy” and the lack of competition this could result in.

TASC could only give estimates of how many workers and companies would be affected, claiming that as many as 40% of California solar companies could lay off employees.

Buying out disruption

Another criticism that has been levelled at utilities from a number of sources, including analyst John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), is that utilities in various parts of the US are attempting to co-opt or own rooftop solar programmes. In 'If you can’t beat ‘em, own ‘em – utilities muscle in to rooftop solar market', a piece published on 11 August on the ILSR blog, Farrell said that around the US, utilities are waking up to the disruption to their existing revenues posed by solar and “want a piece of the action”.

“In the past five years, rooftop solar has revealed the limitations of the archaic electric utility business model, as customers have found generating their own power more cost effective than taking 100% of their energy from the incumbent monopoly,” Farrell wrote.

“For years, utilities have fought back by trying to make competition less cost effective, at a substantial cost to their image (and ratepayer’s own money). Now they want a piece of the action.”

According to Farrell’s analysis of proposed programmes by two utilities in Arizona, the customer benefit of utility ownership would be dwarfed by the increase in financial benefit enjoyed by the utilities, Tucson Electric Power and Arizona Public Service.

Presumably a tone of conciliation will be sought eventually. TASC was founded by a number of rooftop solar companies, including SolarCity, the management of which has said, through statements and blogs by CTO Peter Rive and others, that it sees collaboration with utilities as natural and ultimately could be of benefit to all parties, especially as even newer technologies such as energy storage are introduced to networks.

A representative of another TASC member company, Sunrun, said that above all the industry craves certainty and said net metering is the only state-level support scheme proven to assist deployment.

“The rooftop solar industry needs long-term certainty. Net metering is the only proven state policy that puts solar into the hands of homeowners, renters, schools, churches, farmers and businesses”, Walker Wright, Sunrun’s director of public policy, said.

19 August 2021
The utility-scale PV market is poised for exponential growth and yet the industry still has many fundamental opportunities to improve on standards and best practice. Tracker shade loss has been one of those topics that deserve more attention, but has been typically handled by derate factors rather than trying to accurately forecast the loss over the life of the system. Join Nextracker’s subject matter experts, Aron Dobos and Neelesh Umachandran, and Rounak Kharait, director of solar energy assessments at DNV, for a webinar about why shade modeling matters and recommendations on what the solar industry should do about it.
25 August 2021
Energy Next is a new industry exhibition focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, which will be held for the first time in 2021 in Sydney, Australia alongside the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit, the peak gathering of leaders driving Australia's energy transformation. Organised by the same people behind Australia’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will give visitors two days of access to key suppliers in the industry, free-to-attend professional development and industry workshops, and networking opportunities to better understand clean energy issues and solutions and learn about the latest developments in this transformational, dynamic sector.
25 August 2021
The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste takes place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It addresses leading local and international experts on solar power and renewable energy in the region. The Summit’s mission is to provide in-depth education, enable high-quality networking opportunities, expand the use of PV technologies at regional and national level and strengthen the local PV industry. The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste is organized by Intersolar South America - Latin America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry: Solar Promotion International GmbH, Pforzheim, Freiburg Management and Marketing International GmbH (FMMI) and Aranda Eventos & Congressos Ltda, São Paulo as co-organizer.
25 August 2021
Join us to hear directly from the CTOs and heads-of-research from the top-20 cell/wafer producers to the PV industry today. The event will focus on predicting the key metrics underpinning the next big shift to n-type with answers to the key questions: When will the transition to n-type happen? Which companies will be first to 10 GW capacity and production? Who will be the key equipment suppliers for the new production lines? Which n-type process flow/architecture will emerge as the front-runner? What will polysilicon purity and wafer thickness levels look like for optimized n-type manufacturing? What will the upstream poly/wafer supply-chain look like in 5 years from now?
26 August 2021
In this webinar, JA Solar will present its product portfolio based on the latest technologies to improve your PV projects, ensuring maximum reliability and performance. During the webinar we will receive insight from JA Solar about its solar technology roadmap and how the manufacturer is providing customers with innovative solutions to suit their needs, while we will also analyse how to determine the best product solution for each solar project.
6 September 2021
The 38th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition will be held online from 6 - 10 September 2021, allowing PV experts from all around the globe to participate with just one click! The EU PVSEC is the world's leading forum for PV Research and Development and the biggest Conference on PV Solar Energy worldwide. That is why PV experts from all around the globe are keen on gathering together each year to be part of this specialist’s event, to present and discuss the latest developments in Photovoltaics, to network and to conduct business.

Read Next

PV Tech Premium
July 30, 2021
Not only will solar be the dominant source of new power generation in Europe by 2025, cementing its position as the third largest market for solar globally, but the continent has placed the asset class at the very heart of its COVID-19 recovery strategy. As part of a week-long special report on PV Tech Premium, Liam Stoker, Edith Hancock and Jules Scully explore the drivers for solar in Europe, the key markets and the challenges that remain.
July 30, 2021
First Solar has unveiled plans to construct a 3.3GWdc module assembly facility in India, bolstering its manufacturing footprint outside of the US.
July 30, 2021
Anglo-Australian mining company BHP, in partnership with Canada’s TransAlta Renewables, is to build two solar farms and a battery storage system to help power its Mt Keith and Leinster nickel mines in Western Australia
July 30, 2021
German energy giant RWE has upgraded its earnings forecast for 2021 after “exceptionally positive” earnings trend
July 29, 2021
Tracker and racking provider Arctech has delivered SkySmart II tracking system to a 575MW agriculture-sharing solar project located in Nangong City, Hebei Province, China.
July 29, 2021
Unigreen Energy, owned by Hevel majority shareholder Ream Management LLC, has broken ground on a wafer and cell manufacturing plant that will produce 1.3GW of silicon n-type monocrystalline ingots and wafers as well as 1GW of heterojunction technology (HJT) solar cells.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021