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California solar: Regulators restart work on NEM 3.0

Work on the so-called "NEM 3.0" policy was paused indefinitely by the CPUC in February after receiving backlash.
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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has restarted its work on the controversial overhaul to the state's solar energy-focused net energy metering policy.

Work on the so-called "NEM 3.0" policy was paused indefinitely by the CPUC in February after receiving backlash from Gov. Gavin Newsom, renewable energy advocates, and celebrities. But the CPUC reopened the record on May 9 to gather more information.

The Administrative Law Judge overseeing the revamp to California's net metering policy asked for comments on the transition from one net metering policy to another, non-bypassable charges on gross consumption, and community distributed energy resources. Comments are due by June 10.

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The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) said a proposed decision from the CPUC on NEM 3.0 was unlikely before July at the earliest.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the CALSSA, said solar advocates are relieved that regulators are taking another look at the net metering decision. She added, however, that "a solar tax appears to still be on the table" and vowed to push back against utility interests.

Revising California's net metering policy would impact roughly 1.3 million rooftop solar customers.

The proposal, issued by energy regulators in December, received harsh criticism from solar companies, renewable advocates, and Newsom.

In addition, consulting firm Wood Mackenzie released analysis saying the proposed net metering tariff revisions would cut the state’s residential solar market in half by 2024.

CALSSA criticized the proposal when it was first made public, saying that regulators appeared to have “sided with PG&E and the other large investor-owned utilities” in an approach that “will make rooftop solar and customer-owned batteries more expensive and therefore out of reach of working- and middle-class consumers.”

The association said that an early read of the proposal suggested that the rate paid for solar exported to the grid “appears to be approximately 5 cents/kWh,” down from 20-30 cents/kWh for residential customers. The association said that the proposed plan includes no transition glide path, meaning that the full reduction likely would take effect as soon as NEM-3 is implemented.

Charlie Coggeshall, senior analyst and regional director for Coalition for Community Solar Access, called the proposed decision “deeply disappointing.” He said in a statement it would delay action on developing a “workable community solar program in California” and “undermines” the state’s distributed energy market.

“We urge the Commission to reconsider and reassess the benefits a thriving community solar program can bring to California before it issues a final decision.”

California, one of the largest solar markets in the U.S., is being watched closely by solar developers and advocates. Decisions in the Golden State have an outsized impact on the overall market.

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