Update Oct. 10: This post has been updated to reflect a new date for the CPUC vote
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is expected to release an amended proposed decision either today or tomorrow (Oct. 10) regarding changes to the Virtual Net Energy Metering (VNEM) and Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEMA) programs. These programs regulate how solar is used and credited on multimeter properties, and as we reported in August, the initial proposed new rules would have made solar unaffordable for California schools, farms, apartment renters and small businesses by limiting self-consumption.
The vote on that proposal was originally scheduled for Thursday, October 12. It has since been re-scheduled for November 2. This is the second time the vote was postponed in the process.
Background | The VNEM and NEMA programs let properties with multiple electric meters install a single solar system for the entire property, sharing one solar system’s electricity and net metering credits with all customers and meters on that property. This brings the benefits of going solar to many types of consumers who otherwise would not benefit from Net Energy Metering (NEM), the program that makes solar more affordable by crediting consumers with solar systems for the excess energy they produce and share back with the energy grid.
Last December the CPUC drastically reduced the value of solar credits for single-family homes under the NEM program. The CPUC’s original proposed changes to VNEM and NEMA went even further by denying multiple-meter properties the ability to consume the energy that they produce on-site. Instead, the proposal would essentially force these consumers to buy their own solar electricity from the utility at full retail prices.
Mandated solar without self-consumption? | The original VNEM proposal would reduce the value of the energy produced by approximately 70 to 80%, depending on whether batteries are also installed. So, it virtually eliminates the incentive to install rooftop solar at apartments, farms and schools.
But remember, under California’s Building Energy Efficiency code, Title 24, all new multifamily housing developments with three stories or fewer must install solar, and those PV systems must be capable of powering the building’s annual energy needs.
Outcry | Since the initial proposal was published, hundreds of organizations and businesses representing clean energy and renters’ rights advocates, affordable housing, farms, and schools—as well more than 135 local elected officials— have called on CPUC to reject it.
A recently adopted resolution by the Oakland City Council calls on the CPUC and Governor Newsom “to reject any proposals that seek to frustrate or dismantle the ability of multifamily tenants and schools to avail themselves of the benefits of local, renewable, and affordable energy through rooftop solar and battery storage.”
Instead, the City Council urged the CPUC to “approve a net energy metering tariff for multifamily housing and schools that includes full credits and savings for multifamily tenants and schools from customer generated energy.”
Educators also spoke passionately against the CPUC proposal during the commission’s public hearing in late August.
Bryan Clausen, a San Luis Obispo School Board Member shared how the proposed decision will greatly impact the district’s plan to add solar to ten of its schools. “At schools, most of our energy consumption happens during daylight hours. […] As drafted, we would need to cancel our solar and battery programs because it would not be financially responsible for us to spend taxpayer money to deploy solar. (CPUC August 31 meeting at 56:61).
Sasha Horwitz, a Legislative Advocate with the Los Angeles Unified School District, talked about how schools use onsite solar to help reduce operating costs so limited resources can be targeted to their community-based missions. The CPUC’s proposed decision will hurt that effort. “Increases in energy expenditures directly reduce funding for educational services. Rising energy costs take money directly out of our classrooms. The proposal would make it economically unfeasible for schools, community colleges, and universities to install solar and storage.” said Horwitz. She called on the CPUC to reject the current proposal and instead support property-wide netting “so that schools can benefit from the local renewable energy their own solar systems generate.” (CPUC August 31 meeting at 1:05:20).
Tina Fredericks, a Pasadena Unified School District Board Member, said the district is committed to being a leading voice in the fight against climate change. Because of that the district installed solar in 12 of its 25 campuses, with plans to build even more. The CPUC’s proposed decision would deny the district millions in annual savings it could invest in classrooms and teachers. In urging the CPUC to reject the proposals, Fredricks said “our children’s chance of a livable future is in your hands.” (CPUC August 31 meeting at 1:29:51).
Sam Davis, an Oakland Unified School District Board Member, explained how the district has new bond money dedicated to addressing climate change with rooftop solar on all major school projects. The proposed decision will hurt the cost-effectiveness of those projects and thus takes money directly out of Oakland classrooms. (CPUC August 31 meeting at 1:55:22).
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