The forecast is blue skies and sunny today and tomorrow for residential solar energy!
A January 18, 2012 decision by California state regulators rejected a tax change proposed by San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). Two other Southern California utility companies also supported the change, which would have charged residential customers with solar power in San Diego for their use of the utility company's distribution grid. SDG&E argued that people who get their power from solar electric panels avoid paying their fair share for the maintenance of the electrical infrastructure. The utility proposed to levy a separate charge to customers with home solar power based on the ebb and flow of their electricity to the grid.
Referred to as a Network Use Charge (NUC), the surcharge directly targeted residential solar-electricity generating customers. SDG&E reps estimated it would add approximately $20 to $30 to monthly bills of solar homeowners. The charge would have had a limited impact on traditional utility customers. In other words, utility companies are feeling the sting of not being able to use the infrastructure they maintain to sell electricity to people capable of using mainly solar power in San Diego and across SoCal.
Commissioner Mark Ferron of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said the NUC violated key elements of state law. His ruling was in response to a motion filed last month by Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN). Shames also pointed out the fact that the charge proposed by SDG&E ran counter to the legislature's intent to subsidize and promote California solar power. SDG&E will need to submit a revised rate design that does not include the NUC.
This ruling sets an important precedent for the legal protection of residential and commercial solar producers to be free from paying extra fees to utility companies. You need not worry about SDG&E imposing new fees just because you use solar power any time soon. The decision also eliminated the uncertainty that the local solar industry experienced in the preceding months in reference to solar power remaining a viable way to reduce electricity costs.
If you are already a solar homeowner, enjoy the relief of knowing your investment in solar power in San Diego and the rest of the state is protected by our state government. And if you've been meaning to look into solar, this information and security should provide you with the confidence you need to finally get on board with solar electricity solutions.