Solar Credits Would Remain Under Clause

Rooftop solar customers can hold on to a popular tariff that reduces their power bills for 20 years as the state reconfigures the arrangement for utility customers who adopt solar in the future, under a proposal from the president of the state Public Utilities Commission.

The current “net energy metering” tariff allows rooftop solar customers who feed excess electricity into the grid to receive credits against consumption that substantially reduce bills. The proposed grandfathering clause would apply for 20 years starting with the plug-in date of individual rooftop solar arrays.

The current tariff has underpinned a boom in solar-electricity generation by utility customers, but will be reconfigured by order of the governor and state legislature after investor-owned utilities complained that solar customers were avoiding their fair share of costs for maintaining the electrical grid.

Homeowners, businesses and public agencies have worried their investment in rooftop solar, with a payoff calculated under the old tariff, would be undercut under the new credit system still being drafted.

The 20-year grandfathering period was designed to ensure “reasonable payback that includes some return on the customer’s investment,” Utilities Commissioner Michael Peevey wrote in a recommended decision released late Thursday. He based the time period on a conservative estimate of the functioning life for solar equipment.

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