The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced today it is “reopening the record” on its net energy metering “NEM 3” proceeding, in order to gather information on some specific elements of the decision. The record reopening delays a proposed decision from the CPUC on NEM 3 until July at the earliest.

For over a year the CPUC has considered changes to net energy metering backed by utility interests. The CPUC’s initial proposed decision, which included a steep tax on rooftop solar and an immediate gutting of the credits solar consumers receive, would have made solar unaffordable for most consumers, especially those in working and middle class neighborhoods where solar is growing fastest. It would also hurt the commercial, government and agricultural solar markets. The unpopular proposed decision was shelved for an indefinite amount of time after intense backlash and public disapproval from Governor Newsom.

Now, as the CPUC reopens the process for considering policy changes to rooftop solar, the stakes are coming into heightened focus. California is expecting summer power shortages and blackouts due to both limited supplies of energy and growing demand for electricity, to the extent that Governor Newsom may reverse plans to shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. As a superior, no-regrets solution, solar advocates are calling for a new proposed decision that keeps solar growing and affordable for all types of consumers, ensures California remains on track with its clean energy and land conservation goals, and accelerates the growth of solar plus storage to build a more resilient electric grid. Solar supporters note California built the equivalent capacity of two Diablo Canyon-sized power plants through rooftop solar between 2017 and 2021 and can repeat that progress by 2024, unless regulators make changes that undermine the rooftop solar market.

The distributed storage market is also significant with more than 800 MW of storage installed to date and more than 1 gigawatt of additional energy storage expected by 2024. Together, this is nearly the equivalent storage capacity of both Diablo Canyon reactors.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association issued the following statement on today’s ruling from the CPUC administrative law judge on the NEM 3 record reopening:

“Our large and diverse coalition of solar supporters is glad the CPUC recognized just how far out of step the first proposed decision was with California’s clean energy goals and equity values. Californians strongly support rooftop solar and will not accept a decision that taxes the sun or slows our state’s clean energy progress by making solar unaffordable.  

At the same time, we know utility special interests have a lot of power and a significant profit motive in stopping competition from rooftop solar. And, to be clear, a solar tax appears to still be on the table. We will continue to make sure no one is fooled again by the utility profit grab that makes electricity more expensive for everyone and halts California’s grid resilience and clean energy progress.”