SAN DIEGO– Starting next year, new solar panel customers will get less money back from utility companies for the energy they generate but do not use because of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) modernized Net Energy Metering (NEM).

Not everyone is on board with the new decision.

The CPUC voted unanimously on the new NEM, which are rules that determine the amount of credit for solar energy.

Under the new regulations, new homes with solar panels will get a smaller credit from utility companies for their excess solar energy that contributes to the power grid.

The credit could be cut by at least 75%, however, rates will vary by utility and time of day. This new regulation will not apply to people with existing solar systems, who for decades have been credited at or near the full electricity rate.

CPUC said the new regulations support the solar industry.

In a statement from CPUC: “The proposal continues to support the solar industry while it pivots to a solar plus battery storage marketplace, which will bolster the local green energy economy. To support this evolution and the industry’s growth, the proposal provides extra credits to residential customer bills who adopt solar over the next five years, which allows the industry to gradually transition from solar-only sales to solar plus battery storage sales. The proposal does not include any charges specific to solar customers.”

Baker Electric Home Energy Company CEO, Mike Teresso, said he disagrees about the support.

“It’s going to change the economics so drastically that the value of having solar on your roof or the benefit you will get for solar on your roof is going to be diminished so much it’s going to slow down the industry to a crawl,” Teresso said.

CPUC’s proposal gives $900 million for people to purchase rooftop solar and solar paired with battery storage systems. $630 million will be set aside for low-income customers. In their statement, CPUC claims this will save customers up to $136 a month.

“The proposal improves the pricing structure and credits customers for the electricity they export based on its value to the grid. Under the proposal, average residential customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas & Electric installing solar will save $100 a month on their electricity bill, and average residential customers installing solar paired with battery storage will save at least $136 a month. With these savings on their energy bills, average new solar and solar plus battery storage customers will fully pay off their systems in just nine years or less.”

“The real question is, ‘is that going to motivate someone to go solar?’ ‘is that enough of a reason?’ the utility rates are going to keep going up every year,” Teresso explained. “Nothing that the CPUC did this week is going to change the future of utility rates.”

Some environmentalist groups claim CPUC’S decision is an unrealistic investment for working-class homes. In a statement from SanDiego350 and Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation, they said they are disappointed and blame the utilities CPUC for siding with utility companies.

“We are beyond disappointed about the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) decision to make rooftop solar more expensive for all Californians. The final decision on the future of rooftop solar, known as net metering 3.0, will erode the economics of going solar by 75 percent, making rooftop solar an unrealistic investment for working class households and community organizations while dramatically slowing the rollout of new rooftop solar installations across the state. This decision is a huge setback for California and the CPUC has turned their backs on communities of concern, which will continue to suffer the disproportionate impacts of the continued use of dirty energy in California and across the globe. The commission’s blatant disregard for the thousands of Californians who have expressed opposition to this proposal, as well as their disregard for the climate crisis, the state’s clean energy goals and working class families who are struggling to pay their energy bills, shows that we still have a lot of work to do to truly achieve climate and energy justice.” 

Their statement also goes on to say:

Make no mistake: the CPUC sided with the investor-owned utility companies on the issue instead of listening to the overwhelming interest of the public. The fossil fuel industry is so powerful and continues to block effective climate action needed for a livable future. This is a reminder about the pressing need to dismantle the fossil fuel industry’s control over politics and to vote for elected officials that will stand up for justice and work diligently to stop the climate crisis.”

The rates for new solar customers will start in April 2023.

SDG&E Communications Manager, Anthony Wagner, said, “over the past two years, SDG&E participated in the NEM proceeding along with many organizations, including consumer groups, with the goal of addressing the growing inequities between solar and non-solar customers. Now that the Commission has voted, we are focused on preparing to implement the required changes and continue growing the use of solar and battery storage in our region.”