Reasonable and revolutionary: We look at the Solar Bill of Rights proposed in California

solar bill of rights

“Collaborate with the Independent System Operator” is a great phrase, one that should be heard more often in regards to a utility’s interaction with customers generating and/or storing their own renewable energy. It is a phrase you can find expertly woven into the Solar Bill of Rights, a bipartisan proposal that now sits in front of the California Senate which would expand the freedom to self-generate to all Californians.

This bill, or at least the conversation, is much needed. Starting in 2020, all new homes built in California must have solar generation incorporated in some fashion. Solar will be as integral to the homes in California as windows and roofs. We are considering the implications of this mandate all year in this Countdown to 2020 series. One implication is the balance of power shifting away from electric utilities to the public. This won’t be the case on Jan. 1, 2020, but the mandate makes it inevitable, so the time is now to rethink the basic expectations, and rights, within that utility-customer dynamic.

Solar mandate aside, Californians have plenty of reasons to push for such action (cough, PG&E, cough). As the Solar Rights Alliance website puts it: “In these uncertain times, everyone should be free to make their own energy from the sun. Wildfires. Blackouts. Bankruptcies. Budget-busting electricity prices. It’s no wonder more and more Californians are looking to solar energy. Homeowners, farmers, renters, schools and businesses alike want more peace of mind and control than what the utilities can offer.”

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What’s it say?

The Solar Bill of Rights (Senate Bill 288), officially announced by a coalition of solar users and California State Senators Scott Wiener (D-SF) and Jim Nielsen (R-Tehuma), is written to guarantee the following for everyone living in California:

• The right to generate and store solar energy on your property without interference from the utility.
• The right to interconnect solar and storage to the grid quickly, without utility red tape.
• Freedom from unfair fees that discriminate against customers just for having solar.

The Solar Bill of Rights will also make it possible for solar and storage customers to provide grid services with their battery, helping make a more reliable electric grid while receiving a fair credit in return. Solar groups supporting the bill include the new Solar Rights Alliance, the California Solar & Storage Association and Vote Solar.

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A few excerpts

I especially liked these bits from the bill, all of which read as both perfectly reasonable and revolutionary:

“The bill would require the PUC to collaborate with the Independent System Operator to modify existing tariffs to remove barriers to the participation of customer-sited energy resources in programs intended to provide energy, capacity, and ancillary services for the bulk power system.”

“Residential customers have a right to consumer protections that ensure adequate transparency in sales and contracts for renewable energy and storage installations and services,”

“The time require for utility review and approval of interconnection applications and the lack of transparency in interconnection costs has impeded customer adoption of solar and energy storage systems.”

And this whole section outlining the information the utility should have to include in their annual reports for the PUC to review on an annual basis (metrics that are currently undervalued and we discussed at length in our Shadow Costs feature last year):

1. The amount of time that the electrical corporations or local publicly owned electric utilities have taken to complete each step in the review of interconnection requests.

2. The number of interconnection requests initially received and the number of interconnection requests deemed complete.

3. The amount of fees charged for processing the interconnection requests and the basis for those fees.

4. A summary of challenges in reducing the amount of time for interconnection review and improvements to the interconnection review process that occurred in the previous year.

 


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