Last month we published an article from a remarkable, very useful and effective environmental nonprofit, which basically argued that it is time to downsize (‘reform’) Net Solar Energy Meters (NEMs). in California. We quickly had a big backlash. I had seen this argument made earlier this year and was about to write this article at that time, but never made it. With readers’ comments, it seemed like the time was right.
To get started, let’s briefly explain what measuring net solar energy is. If you have solar panels on your roof in California, those solar panels can generate more or less electricity than the house needs. If they produce more electricity than your home uses in a month, policy requires utilities to pay you for the extra electricity sent into the grid.
There are a few issues that solar power to the grid and net energy metering payments raise. They are the reason why NEM 3.0, a “reformed” version of the policy due to be finalized this year, is a hot topic of debate. The first concern is that a high influx of electricity in the middle of the day has started to exceed consumer demand, so 1) utilities need to find a way to store it for later use, and 2) the value of electricity in the event of overproduction is less than the value of electricity in the event of under-supply. The second concern is that money does not fall from the sky and any policy that requires utilities to pay more for electricity in order to pay relatively wealthy customers who can afford to install solar power systems on their homes. roofs should be covered by an increase in consumer electricity tariffs. – which could be regressive and drive up the electricity bills of the less wealthy.
The proposed changes include reducing NEM tariffs for rooftop solar owners by up to about 75%. Utilities would like to charge owners of solar panels a fee that amounts to a monthly cost of about $ 100 on average. The goal is to encourage people to put solar on their roofs by paying for them but to discourage people who put solar on their roofs by making them pay? Wait what? …
Currently, the average solar home owner in California would have a payback period of 6 to 8 years. This should increase to 10-15 years if the above proposals are accepted. Without a doubt, this would significantly slow the growth of solar energy.
However, note that California law requires that utilities have policies that ensure rooftop solar power is developed “sustainably”. We’re getting into a pretty complicated noodle soup now.
Note: Before anyone in California who owns rooftop solar panels right now or is installing them this year * worries, note that it seems very likely that anyone who already owns solar panels will be grandfathered. and will keep the benefits and policies in place prior to NEM 3.0. (Feel free to use my Tesla Referral Code for $ 100 off if you are considering going solar and are ready to go.)
Naturally, watered-down or weakened NEM incentives wouldn’t make people install as much solar power, which would theoretically slow down the retirement of fossil-fuel power plants and worsen global warming and climate change – and in California’s case. , that would mean more destructive fires. destroying homes and businesses across the state. Without a doubt, it will cost all Californians more if half the state burns to the ground in the next two decades. So what to do?
Additionally, while people who want to slow the growth of rooftop solar power focus on the two concerns I mentioned above, rooftop solar power has many benefits as well: a plus high network security, less pollution (which affects the poor much more than the rich), more resistant grids (useful when, for example, you face a Blackout), and less need for transmission infrastructure (which costs a fortune). This is actually a very complex mathematical problem and the calculations can change significantly at different levels of solar energy market share, different levels of energy storage capacity, different levels of other energies. renewables on the grid, etc.
It doesn’t make sense to me to cripple the solar energy industry at a time when we urgently need to phase out fossil fuel power plants. I would like to see independent, high quality cost analysis and benefits of solar power on rooftops for people of different classes and geographies. For all the additional costs that the public services face by NEM, it seems reasonable to me that they are financed by the state or by a specific fund raised for this purpose. Perhaps the NEM policy could include a system of investing in community solar power installations (even installed on large rooftops) that allow taxpayers without their own roof to benefit in the same way that NEM owners do.
What California, the United States, and the world at large need is a acceleration adoption of renewable energies, not a deceleration. Facilities must to augment, do not be slowed down.
Notably, the policies currently being debated are not expected to be enacted until January 2022, likely to come into effect in the spring of 2022. Knowing what is on the table and knowing that it can take months to install and connect a rooftop solar system to the power grid (especially in a critical time like this) all I can say to any individual is that if you are considering going solar now or later it looks like now is almost certainly the best option financially for you. (Not a tip, but, well, read the above.)
In addition, EnergySage makes a good point for those of us outside of California, which accounts for a huge chunk of US solar power capacity: “The final decision of the CPUC will not only have an impact on California, but on the solar industry as a whole; California is the number one online domino for all things solar, and everything we see here will undoubtedly influence net metering policies in states across the country. “
Without a doubt, if California’s solar energy policy becomes much more hostile to rooftop solar power, other states will follow – and perhaps even more aggressively and with less notice than California.
Now is not the time to slow down the clean energy transition. On the contrary, we are in a race for global warming and climate catastrophe, and every piece of news or report that I have seen on this topic indicates that the clean energy transition is losing the race and that the gap might even widen. We have to find ways to accelerate embracing clean energy, not slowing it down. Go on!
A few days ago, Jeff Parr, Founder and CEO of Solar Technologies in Santa Cruz, wrote: “Today I am concerned that an upcoming decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will seriously undermine my means. sustenance and end the good we do. for the planet, for working class families, for businesses, for everyone – all because utilities aim to end solar growth on California rooftops. “
Indeed. Come on, California!
Jeff also has a strong case that NEM 3.0, as proposed, would do more harm than good to democratize energy and bring more of the benefits of solar power to a larger group of people. He writes:
“NEM is the policy that enables consumer solar power; he made rooftop solar power affordable and accessible in the Golden State. But the state’s largest utilities are pushing to reduce the benefits of rooftop solar power, proposing changes that will make mainstream solar power almost twice as expensive as it is today. hui. Their proposal would ensure that low and middle income families cannot see a reasonable return on their investment.
“Utilities say solar panels can only be bought by the rich, forcing low-income Californians to pay more for traditional energy at the expense of the rich. I can tell you from first hand experience in this industry that this is not true.
“Today, almost half of the owners we work with are working families. Other clients include schools, places of worship, non-profit organizations, multi-family housing, affordable housing and others. Over the past five years, my company has installed solar panels in 19 schools, 15 places of worship, and 20 nonprofits – places where money is better spent helping our community rather than paying government bills. high energy.
Does NEM 3.0 on utilities care about the little guy? Or is NEM 3.0 about utilities slowing the adoption of rooftop solar power so they can make more money just by putting up large power plants, changing more slowly, and reaping more profit?
Also consider all the high paying blue collar solar installation jobs that will be lost if NEM 3.0 suffocates and collapses the rooftop solar industry. Who is it going to hurt?
Do you appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician or Ambassador – or Patreon Patron.