PUC rejects SDG&E’s proposed ‘network use fee’ for solar customers
A plan by San Diego Gas & Electric to charge a “network use fee” to users of solar energy was stalled last Wednesday at the California Public Utilities Commission.
At a presentation to a committee in November, SDG&E presented the charge as a fairness issue, since solar customers are hooked to the grid but not paying for the upkeep of wires and other infrastructure.
The plan, part of a wider proposal to restructure its rates, met fierce criticism from area politicians and green energy proponents.
The California Center for Sustainable Energy estimated the average single-family home customer with solar would have to pay $350 under the plan, and school districts would have be charged $8,100 for each elementary school with rooftop panels.
SDG&E argued that customers would still be saving money with the solar option.
A ruling by Commissioner Mark Ferron called on the utility to resubmit its proposed rate structure without the solar charge. His ruling can be appealed.
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob released a statement in which she said the commissioner “saw through the utility’s distortions.”
“The proposal was dead on arrival because it wasn’t crafted for fairness — it was designed to kill off competition from solar providers,” Jacob said. “San Diegans should never forget how SDG&E forced struggling public agencies to spend time and attorney’s fees fighting an illegal plan crafted without any input from the people impacted by it.”
“The fact that net energy metering customers are being subsidized by non-solar customers is not sustainable in the long term,” SDG&E said in a statement. “Not only are other investor-owned utilities in California facing the same challenges due to flaws in the current electric rate structure, other utilities across the country are wrestling with similar issues — in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Virginia. We believe the CPUC and the Legislature are concerned about the existing cross-subsidy and encourage them to take action on a proposed solution sooner rather than later.”
SDG&E said it will revise and re-file its application and testimony by Feb. 12.
Separately, SDG&E released a proposal in which customers who can’t produce their own solar energy can purchase it from a remote site, either from SDG&E directly or from a third-party provider. That plan will also require CPUC approval.
Less than 30 percent of customers can take advantage of rooftop solar panels because of structural, shading or ownership issues, according to James Avery, a senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E.
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