California utilities and solar companies jostle over rooftop subsidy reform plans

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(Bloomberg) – California utilities and solar companies on Wednesday lobbied state regulators to change a proposed state plan that would revise a key rooftop solar subsidy.

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Utilities told a California Public Utilities Commission hearing that the latest proposal does not go far enough to address the transfer of billions of dollars in subsidy costs to those who do not or cannot enable solar energy. The solar industry said the plan to cut payments by 75% to homeowners who send excess clean energy to the grid was too sudden and would hurt the business of bolting panels to rooftops.

The commission released the proposal last week in a bid to reform a rooftop solar incentive program in a way that promotes the adoption of more battery storage while controlling electricity costs for those who don’t have no solar power. The plan, if approved, would be the most significant change to a grant that has enabled 1.5 million Californians to install solar panels.

“It’s so shocking,” said Brad Heavner, policy director for the California Solar & Storage Association. Solar companies want regulators to consider moving more gradually away from the current setup, where customers are paid the full retail rate for their exported solar power.

The hearing provided the first opportunity for solar companies, utilities, clean energy and consumer advocates to comment on the latest proposed reforms.

Rooftop solar customers would have to pay a monthly fee to connect to the grid to cover the costs they avoid under the current incentive structure, said Carla Peterman, former CPUC commissioner and vice president. executive of PG&E Corp., who spoke on behalf of the publicly owned investor-owned utilities. An earlier proposal included such an accusation, but it was removed from the one posted last week.

The most recent plan would not impact existing customers. This would change the credit paid for excess electricity from the retail rate to a credit that varies depending on the time of day and the needs of the grid. It is designed to provide greater incentives for customers who install batteries with their solar systems. The commission is expected to vote on the proposal next month.

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