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California upholds rates and proves a shining beacon for home-solar benefits

In a major win for residential solar in California this month, the state’s Public Utilities Commission rejected attempts by Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric to make rooftop solar more expensive.

The 3 to 1 decision against the investor-owned utility companies brings to close a three year battle where these companies lobbied to significantly lower the net metering rates paid to solar residents. Currently the private utility companies have to compensate solar powered homeowners and businesses for the excess electricity they supply back to the grid. Like many private utility companiess rallying against net metering in America these days, they claimed the payout to people generating their own solar power would increase the rates they charged non-solar residents.

In a scathing condemnation to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, the policy director for the California Solar energy Industries Association Brad Heavner, called the utility company’s case “not that strong” at all, claiming the vigor with which they attacked home solar was “almost harassment.”

Part of the utility company’s appeal for commissioners to review the low rates for solar residents was the extension of a 30 percent tax credit issued by Congress earlier this year for solar installations past the end of 2016. Anti-solar advocates argued the tax credit makes rooftop solar cheaper than it otherwise would have been and that the utility companies should no longer need to provide such generous net-metering compensation.

While the state’s commission currently ruled in favor of upholding the favorable net-metering rates, keeping the cost of installing home solar at a historic low, commissioners are set to review the policy again in 2019.

Author: Harold Tan

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