USA remains a massive mish mash of policies, regulations and laws related to solar energy. While the news from USA remains great for the solar industry with the recent extension of the ITC till 2019, some states have started to become anti-solar due to utility lobbying. Note the solar industry remains in infancy in USA with only 1% penetration, compared to 7% for Germany. Apart from Arizona, Hawaii and California, solar energy remains a niche technology for most of USA. Utilities in USA have been lobbying hard to stop the advancement of solar energy, taking their lessons from Germany where utilities have been decimated by the rapid growth of solar energy. The Edison Electric Institute which is the utility think tank had flagged solar energy as the greatest threat facing the industry.
This has made utilities across USA to petition the state energy regulators to impose fixed charges on solar rooftop installations. The top 3 utilities in California wanted to drastically reduce the fees given to rooftop solar owners for excess electricity being generated. They also wanted to impose a fixed fee for the usage of the grid, as solar penetration in California has become more than 5% of the total electricity consumption. The California Public Commission (PUC) did not accede to these demands keeping the higher prices of net metering compensation.
Tuesday’s proposed decision, however, specifically declines to “impose any demand charges, grid access charges, installed capacity fees, standby fees, or similar fixed charges on NEM residential customers,” while the commission continues to evaluate the need for them. That’s a big victory for the solar industry, which has fought hard for keeping the retail rate.
However, Nevada has not given a decision favorable for solar energy rooftop owners. This has angered the solar industry with many top rooftop solar developers threating to leave the state altogether. The PUC has not only drastically reduce the net metering tariff, but also imposed a fixed charge. This will hurt the industry as it will substantially increase the costs for solar energy and make it much less attractive, as compared to the conventional power bought from the grid. Note Nevada has excellent solar resources, but does not have much in terms of solar capacity. The solar companies have accused the monopoly utility NV Energy of unduly influencing the governor’s office as well as PUC.
Currently, a policy known as net metering — which provides monetary credits for customers who power their homes and business with solar energy and send excess power back to the grid — provides incentives for Nevadans to install rooftop arrays. The proposed initiatives would reduce the value of credits available and institute changes in a fixed fee to use the utility grid, which has drawn the ire of solar advocates.NV Energy, which is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, argues that fees and a new price structure for credits are necessary to avoid shifting costs to traditional ratepayers.
If adopted, the order would base solar credits on a wholesale rate rather than a fixed retail rate, a new pricing structure that would affect all residential solar customers. The proposal, which can still be modified, changes fees but avoids introducing a new charge NV Energy wanted.How much the changes would cost per customer is difficult to gauge going into the hearing, because the proposed rule gives NV Energy discretion to calculate the rates based on the PUC’s order.
Source – Vegas Sun