Solar Legislation in California

Two bills are up for passage during the current legislative session in California, which began Monday, August 5.

Sacramento, California – August 7, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] SB 530 renews funding for the California Energy Commission buydown program and AB 58 extends Net Metering for utility customers who generate their own Renewable Energy. A key hearing on SB 530 will take place this week with a vote following soon after. The “Buydown Rebate” Bill, SB 530 is a bill that renews and funds the CEC Buydown Rebate Program for Renewable Energy systems. Under this program, which has been very effective in encouraging people to install photovoltaic systems, the state pays US$4.50 per watt or up to half the cost of an installed and grid-tied Renewable Energy system. Those who have taken advantage of this rebate are now generating clean electricity and sending it onto the grid, reducing the amount of electricity the state has to buy during the afternoon peak demand periods. Provisions in this bill are also intended to eliminate the “hole” in funding of Renewable Energy systems larger than 10kW and less than 30kW. It will raise the size limit of “small systems” from 10kW (the current definition) to 30kW. “Large systems” above 30kW are covered by the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) administered by the California Public Utilities Commission. SB 530 also authorizes funding for the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program. The legislature was supposed to have signed this bill last September, but it got sidelined due to political maneuvering leaving a shortage of funds to the California Energy Commission Buydown Rebate Program for 2002. The funds leftover from 2001 are running down and it’s about to run out. The bill has already passed the Senate and has been stuck in the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce. Solar advocates are writing to members of the utilities committee to encourage them to pass the bill. Once it passes the Utilities and Commerce committee, the Assembly Appropriations Committee will have to pass it. It will then go to the Assembly floor for a general vote and from there to the governor’s desk. The “Net Metering” Bill, AB 58 is a bill in the California Senate that will extend net metering for customer/generators with photovoltaic systems sized between 10 kW and 1 MW. Without it, net metering for those systems will sunset at the end of 2002. Net metering means that the utility (like PG&E or Southern California Edison) credits customer/generators who generate excess power (meaning the electrical meter runs backward). The problem with this bill is that when it was in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications committee, a provision was added to it that says that utilities only have to pay customer/generators at a lower “generation” rate, rather than the retail rate for the power. This will greatly complicate the net metering for both photovoltaic system owners and the utilities. The electric utilities have proposed amendments to AB 58 which would dramatically reduce the value of net metering for large scale systems and undermine the very principle of solar net metering – which is to provide full retail value to PV customers. AB 58 is currently before the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications committee, and was passed to the Appropriations Committee when they come back into session on August. 5. Solar advocates are writing to members of the Appropriations Committee to encourage them to remove the provision. Once the Appropriations Committee passes the bill, it will go to the Senate floor for a general vote and then to the governor’s desk for signing into law.

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