More Solar Roofs in California

May 31, 2012 | 9:08 am
Laura Wisland
Former Contributor

Last week’s decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to expand the number of electricity ratepayers who can receive financial credit for producing surplus energy from their rooftop solar panels was a victory for consumers, for the solar industry and for the future of renewable energy.

By more than doubling the number of homeowners and businesses who can participate in the statewide program known as net metering, California is ensuring that people continue to embrace this clean, renewable energy source.

Some utilities fought hard to block the CPUC from changing its net metering policy, but I was gratified to see the commission make a courageous decision that will continue California’s leadership in promoting solar power.

What net metering accomplishes

Net metering, the state’s clean energy credit program, allows homeowners and building owners who install solar panels to send any excess electricity they do not use back to the power grid for others to use. The solar owners get credit on their electricity bills for sharing their extra power, which rewards their bold investment in clean energy.

Already, the program has helped install more than 100,000 solar energy systems on homes, businesses, schools, libraries and other buildings around California. The expansion of the program will help ensure continued growth of rooftop solar around the state, a benefit to both consumers and solar installers.

CPUC ruling brightens the future of solar power

The CPUC’s decision to change the way the net metering limit is calculated raises the maximum total capacity of all the state’s rooftop solar systems to 5,285 megawatts from the current 2,464 megawatts. That increase is equal to enough electricity to power 2.1 million homes.

To address objections by utilities and some consumer groups, the Commission voted to study the issue of whether low-income homeowners, and others who choose not to install solar panels, are unfairly penalized by the program. That analysis is welcome, but so is the long-term benefit to all Californians of reducing global warming emissions.

The action by the CPUC will help boost the California economy by strengthening a solar industry that already employs more than 25,000 workers and has raised more than $10 billion in private investment across the state. It will also enable California to realize a cleaner energy future.