350 Bay Area was part of the successful coalition (picture above is of thousands of petitions being delivered to the CPUC) that won the preservation of net energy metering (NEM) in California back in early 2016. Right now it is being reconsidered in a new rulemaking at the CPUC which we are a party to. We fight for acknowledgement of all of the benefits of roof-top solar so that adjustments finally decided on re: NEM will not be so dramatic that roof-top can stay a viable part of CA’s energy efforts to fend off the coming climate chaos. Net metering is very important to the success of distributed generation (DER), like rooftop solar and mocrogrids. Through the work of our Clean Energy Campaign, 350 Bay Area was one of a handful of grassroots groups to fully engage as an official party to the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) 2015 proceeding, as well as organizing grassroots activism in support of rooftop solar. We continue to be one of the few grassroots groups engaged as a party in rule-makings from the perspective of what is needed for getting our climate goals met in CA. The basic idea of Net Metering is pretty straightforward.
If you put solar panels on your roof and enroll in a net metering program as most do, you will first use the energy it creates for your own energy in your house during the day when the sun is out. Any excess you create beyond that is put back in the grid as a credit and a meter runs backward keeping track of how much that is. When you use electricity at night the credit you have accumulated keeps you from having to pay for all of that. If you create excess beyond that, your electric utility then credits you back for that at some point. Different formulas exist in different states. California’s policy is explained HERE if you scroll down. It was extended until 2019 in that effort referred to in the above paragraph, but now is being challenged both in the legislature with AB 1139 and in a new Net Energy Metering rulemaking that we are a party to and submitting comments for. Through the efforts of many groups, 350 Bay Area Action and 350 Bay Area both taking an active role, AB 1139 was defeated. This is a very key time for the future of solar for communities and residential customers as the Investor-Owned Utilities are trying to end the incentives so they can have more of the exorbitant profit they are guaranteed from getting more transmission projects (yes, those lines that cause fires because the utilities have failed to update them) built.
There are other issues besides Net Metering that we monitor and engage with the CPUC on. There are efforts to “regulate” Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs and a hot issue is the PCIA (stands for Power Change Indifference Adjustment) charge on the bills of those who get their energy generation from a community choice program they are enrolled in as most everyone is now in the Bay Area. Few who see it are “indifferent” about it and it initially was going to be temporary. Now it is moving higher and plans are to keep it indefinitely – something which is controversial. It is an “exit” fee because the customer in a CCE program has “left” a long-term contract the investor-owned utility made to generate the energy for them, assuming they would always be using that generated energy. 350 Bay Area is a legal party to this rule-making, though not active right now as it became too complicated. One earlier comment to the CPUC can be found HERE – An explanation that is pretty good about what is happening with this is HERE
We have been engaging the CPUC on the issue of the “cost” of various types of energy. Frequently the “true” cost is passed over lightly to focus more on the money ratepayors have to pay for the transmission and generation of the energy without looking at the societal cost involved in mitigating the health problems and environmental damage and, yes, even the climate change or global warming attributes associated with each energy type. This is a key issue that is just now being focused on at the CPUC in an on-going proceeding we are involved in as a “party”. The proceeding which has to do with creating a consistent regulatory framework for looking at integrated distributed energy resources (IDER) has been going on since 2014 and had a workshop on societal cost awhile ago that we participated in. Learn what happened at that workshop HERE. We have been engaged in a variety of workshops and proposed decisions on various aspects of this issue which very much relates to how local and clean our energy is, and since community choice energy programs are set up with the goal usually of building or buying local, more efficient, renewable energy (and now battery storage to make it useful for at least the 5:00-9:00pm period when the sun is mostly down ) we are in effect supporting and protecting your community choice energy program.
We also just became invovled as a Party in the rule-making on microgrids based on a 2018 bill that Sen Stern wrote with the idea of trying to facilitate the “commercialization of microgrids”. This is a very contentious issue especially for local communities and the investor-owned utilities (IOU’s). In the first track of the rule-making, decided in June, the CPUC allowed IOU’s to use polluting, diesel generators to back up their equipment for the 2020 fire season over the protests of most all environmental groups. We became a party in July to join with other groups to stop this trend and establish clear quidelines to open up the development of more renewable energy based and backed-up microgrids, particularly to others besides just the IOU’s. Our initial Comment in Track 2 of the rule-making is HERE
Please join us for all of these policy efforts. If interested, please email Ken Jones at Ken@350BayArea.org