Dec 13 (Reuters) – California on Monday proposed reducing the rate at which homeowners can sell excess electricity from their rooftop solar panels into the grid, weakening a policy that has underpinned dramatic growth in the renewable energy industry for years.
The announcement by the California Public Utilities Commission triggered an outcry from the solar panel installation industry, whose backers have warned such proposals could darken the outlook for new projects and undermine the state’s efforts to combat climate change.
The PUC justified the proposal, however, saying it would encourage the solar industry to accelerate battery storage technology so excess power can be held in reserve instead of sold, while undoing a policy it said amounted to a multi-billion dollar subsidy for wealthy homeowners at the expense of other utility ratepayers.
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Under the proposed reforms, Californians with new solar installations would see a discounted rate for power they sell into the grid and a monthly utility charge of $8 per kilowatt to cover the cost of maintaining the grid.
Existing solar owners would be moved to the new structure once their installations have been connected for 15 years, the PUC said. But, they would be offered an incentive to pair a battery with their solar installations before then, which would push them on the new rates sooner.
If adopted, the changes would represent the state’s most significant reform of the so-called net metering policy since it was adopted in the 1990s, allowing homeowners to sell excess electricity into the grid at or near the retail rate.
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