The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today published their long awaited proposed decision on setting new tariffs under the net energy metering (NEM) tariff regime that is called for by California Assembly Bill 327. That bill allowed for the extension of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and called for the extension of the state’s net energy metering program, which has been a boon to household installation of solar energy. The details of implementing AB 327 were left to the CPUC, and many solar industry companies and renewables advocates feared the CPUC would obstruct more household solar energy installations by creating an unfavorable tariff structure for the sale of household rooftop energy to the grid. Those fears appear to be unfounded, as the CPUC indicates it will move toward maintaining favorable tariffs for the sale of rooftop solar energy.
Other provisions of the CPUC’s proposed ruling appear to advance the ball farther toward proposals advocated by activist groups. Among them is a proposal to allow virtual net metering (VNM) to be be allowed for clusters of individual houses in low income communities. Virtual Net Metering allows households to obtain solar credits on their utility bill from solar generation at sites not on that household’s property. Under the ruling, groups of low income houses could benefit from a solar array created to serve them, possibly with favorable financing schemes. This development heralds the wider acceptance of “solar gardens,” where groups of individual households might invest in and reap the benefits from solar arrays not situated on their properties. This expands on previous regulations that only allowed VNM for multifamily dwellings.