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Excellent: More Californians Can Sell Solar Energy Back to the State

In California, if you have solar panels on your roof, you can sell the excess energy they generate back to your utility company. This...


In California, if you have solar panels on your roof, you can sell the excess energy they generate back to your utility company. This system-called "net metering" because you only pay for the net energy you need from your utility-is a big incentive to go solar. A family with a full set of panels might see its monthly energy bill go from $100 to about $1.But there's been a law on the books that limits how many people could take part in the net metering program. Until recently this cap was 2.5 percent. In other words, a utility would buy energy back from customers with solar panels until the total amounted bought reached 2.5 percent of the utility's peak demand.The utilities started approaching this limit last summer. Once they hit it, of course, buying solar panels would start to look like a bad deal because owners wouldn't be able to sell off the surplus energy. Thankfully, a bill just passed that will raise the cap to 5 percent:
The bill by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would allow utilities to buy up to 5 percent of their energy from customers. Current law limits those purchases to 2.5 percent. ... Supporters say the measure will increase the use of solar technology and offset high electricity costs. The current cap threatened to close the market to new solar users, said Bernadette Del Chiaro, a clean energy advocate at Environment California.
I don't know what the justification for this cap was in the first place. If someone is generating energy at home with solar panels why would we want to limit them from being able to sell it to the market?And net metering isn't just good for people with solar panels. It's good for all taxpayers:
[Net metering] allows California schools and public agencies to reduce operating costs by investing in solar energy. California public agencies have already installed at least 51 MW of solar, saving taxpayers more than $270 million in avoided utility payments. With federal stimulus funds committed to support the state's switch to solar, this legislation is a critical component of a fiscally and environmentally responsible energy future in California.
The utility companies were fighting this effort to raise the cap-I suspect that's because solar panels have the potential to really erode their customer base. It's good for our planet, and for the finances of California, that they didn't succeed.
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