New bill could encourage solar power use in California


San Francisco, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — April 15, 2008 – The state of California’s Solar Initiative limits the size of residential solar systems so that generation and consumption are roughly the same – but this could change if a new law is passed that forces utilities to refund customers for excess electricity generated.

Solar power saves large residential electricity users considerable sums of money, but many of them say that they use more power than they need, because utilities at present do not have to pay for any excess power they produce. They point out that this behavior is understandable, but not conducive to attaining the state’s energy efficiency and green energy goals.

Residents who opt for solar power installations receive rebates and are paid a premium price for the power they produce. This means that over 20 percent of solar customers end up in credit at the end of a year, but utilities are not required to refund the credit amount. This, says utility spokespeople, could result in customers refusing to install solar panels in their homes and businesses.

The bill has its critics, however. The provisions only apply to investor-owned utilities such as Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, meaning that municipal utilities will not have to refund credits. And watchdog The Utility Reform Network (TURN) is also opposed, saying that solar power users already receive handsome subsidies and will be even better off if the bill passes and they are credited at the premium rate.