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California's AB-327 Officially Signed Into Law

It's official: California governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown has signed Assembly Bill 327, which addresses several topics critical to solar energy in the nation's biggest solar energy state: extending net metering and the renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS).

Last month the bill easily passed the state Senate and Assembly with wide margins. Announcing his signing of the bill, Governor Jerry Brown specifically added a message to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about grandfathering current net metering customers prior to reaching the cap by July 2017.

In its initial form, AB-327 was criticized for its language that would have empowered utilities to flatten their rate structures while also charging consumers flat monthly fees, seen as squarely targeting rooftop solar growth in the state. But after several revisions the bill emerged with broad support, with four key items:

  • Under the previous law, net metering would have been suspended next year; this new legislation removes that suspension.
  • Last year the CPUC ultimately sided with the solar industry for how to calculate the current 5 percent net-metering cap. This new bill codifies the CPUC's decision, and removes any legal challenges and uncertainty.
  • The net metering cap was statutory; AB 327 provides a path forward for the CPUC to begin the process of removing that net metering cap.
  • The CPUC previously couldn't order utilities to procure any renewable energy beyond the 33 percent RPS; AB 327 removes that ceiling, effectively creating an uncapped RPS.

We spoke with Bryan Miller, president of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), when the bill was passing through the legislature on its way to the Governor's desk. "The bill is definitely a model for other states," Miller said. California has led most of the country on the issue of net metering caps, and as the net metering debate intensifies (hello Arizona!) the largest solar state "will continue to show itself as a best practice for net metering," he said. Also important in AB-327 is allowing CPUC to consider billing for the minimum amount of electricity used, vs. a fixed charge that amounts to a penalty that discourages energy conservation.

"The industry has had a unified voice on this," Miller pointed out. That, with strong leadership in the legislature and the governor to bring all sides together to find solutions, "is a model in itself to resolve these kinds of disputes."

Lead image: We are champions, via Shutterstock

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