Brown vows to protect existing solar customers while creating an unlimited solar market to meet
California’s growing need for clean energy
October 7, 2013
Sacramento – AB 327 (Perea) was signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown. In signing the bill, the governor issued a rare statement clarifying that he expects AB 327 to protect existing solar customers while continuing to encourage more consumers to invest in rooftop solar through continued robust incentives for renewable energy.
“California is once again making history and setting a new bar for solar power,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSEIA (California Solar Energy Industries Association). “With this law, Governor Brown paving the way for truly capturing the vast potential of solar power in California.”
AB 327 (Perea) began 2013 legislative session, largely under the radar, as a residential rate reform bill. After significant amendments driven by Governor Brown’s office late in the session, AB 327 was passed by the California Legislature as one of the state’s biggest solar energy bills in history.
The most significant aspect of AB 327 is in its stipulation that the CPUC create a Net Energy Metering program that is uncapped and unlimited, thereby opening up the market to millions of new customers. Net metering is the policy that allows a solar system owner to spin their meter backwards during the day to generate a bill credit for when the sun is not shining. It is a critical component of the economics of solar power and one that has long been fought by utilities. Previous law capped the number of homeowners, businesses, farms, and schools able to invest in solar via net metering at 5% of a utility’s peak load.
The law also stipulates that the state’s goal of getting to 33% renewable energy by 2020 is a floor, not a ceiling, allowing the state’s utilities to generate more of their energy from renewable resources like solar, wind and geothermal power. The law also makes it clear that consumers can continue to sign up for Net Energy Metering, as it is currently structured, through July 2017. The bill concerned existing solar customers over vague grandfathering language but those concerns were largely addressed in the governor’s signing statement.
In signing the bill today, Governor Brown described it as one that gives the CPUC the authority to “maintain robust incentives for renewable energy investments.” The governor also wrote, “As the CPUC considers rules regarding grandfathering of net metering customers, I expect the Commission to ensure that customers who took service under net metering prior to reaching the statutory net metering cap on or before July 1, 2017, are protected under those rules for the expected life of their systems.”
The new law leaves details of how to achieve this future to the state regulatory agency overseeing electric utilities.
“The devil will be in the details hammered out at the CPUC,” said Del Chiaro. “We greatly appreciate the governor’s vision and support of solar power as a smarter way to generate electricity and we look forward to working with him and the CPUC to craft regulations that protect existing customers and open the doors to millions more.”