Big Changes Coming for Utility Customers


California will overhaul the way most utility customers are billed for home electricity and lift current caps on the amount of renewable energy and rooftop solar installations, under legislation that cleared its last major hurdle on Monday.

Approval of Assembly Bill 327 by the state Senate opens the way for the California Public Utilities Commission to rewrite landmark consumer protections and energy conservation measures enacted during the state’s 2000-01 energy crisis.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill after the State Assembly reviews an updated version. The Senate vote was 33-5.

The state’s three investor-owned electric utilities, including San Diego Gas & Electric, argued that current rules have thrust rising utility costs disproportionally upon large consumers of home electricity, gradually undermining effective funding of the power distribution grid. Amid months of bargaining among industry and consumer groups, negotiations were broadened to address a simmering standoff over incentives and sunset provisions for rooftop solar that loomed over the rapid growth of the industry.

The bill advancing Monday would extend until July 2017 the current equation for so-called net metering, which allows utility customers to credit energy production against consumption with some additional credits. By mid-2017, utility regulators are required to establish new terms and conditions for rooftop solar — dubbed “Net Metering 2.0” by industry watchers.

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