In the waning hours of California’s legislative session, the state’s lawmakers have passed two solar bills, one that will change electric rate structures in California as well as remove the cap on net-metering, the other will allow Californians to purchase renewable energy from their energy utility.
The first bill was somewhat controversial with certain groups, like the Sierra Club, as AB 327 will allow utilities to impose a fee of up to $10 a month to incentivize clean energy like rooftop solar power. “The bill added important provisions that ensure rooftop solar will continue to play a prominent role in California’s economy and energy mix,” said the Sierra Club. “However, AB 327 still included the excessive and unnecessary $120 per year fixed charge on energy bills, a provision that will put billions of dollars into the pockets of the utility lobby.”
AB 327 removes the 5 percent cap on distributed generation in California, meaning that even after a utility’s reaches the 5 percent threshold homeowners can still install solar on their homes and net-meter their excess generation. “California is once again on the brink of making history and setting a new bar for solar power,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of California Solar Energy Industries Association. “With this bill, Governor Brown is saying he wants a future in which solar power is effectively unlimited and able to grow to help meet the state’s climate goals.”
Other groups, like The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) also hailed the legislation. “This is a banner day in California. Once again, state lawmakers have set the bar high when it comes to the adoption of renewable energy,” said SEIA Executive Director Rhone Resch. “AB 327 provides a clear pathway for the continued growth of solar generation in California, which ranks number one in the nation in total installed solar capacity with 3,761 megawatts (MW)—three times more than any other state. What’s more, solar now provides nearly 44,000 good-paying jobs across the state, while saving money for hundreds of thousands of Californians on their utility bills.”
"This bill is the result of hands-on executive leadership from the nation's most experienced Governor," said Bryan Miller, co-chair of TASC and Sunrun vice president of public policy and power markets. "Governor Brown has once again proven his ability to bring disparate sides together to benefit all Californians."
The bill also removes the state’s cap on the 33 percent renewable energy portfolio standard, “This means the 33 percent becomes a floor, not a ceiling,” TASC said.
The state legislature also passed SB 43, which will create a 600 megawatt Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program. Under that legislation, California businesses without the ability to install solar at their place of business or residence (people like renters or leasers) can purchase up to 100 percent of their energy from a renewable energy facility.
Both pieces of legislation now head to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. Once passed, the state still has work to do.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is tasked with passing final regulations related to how AB 327 will affect people’s electric rates. “Moving forward, we plan to work closely with the CPUC to ensure that future rules preserve consumer choice, ensuring that California homeowners, businesses and schools will continue to benefit from clean, reliable solar energy,” Resch said.