California Solar Owners Face New Fees, Utilities Say Costs Should Be Higher

by Ivan Penn, Los Angeles Times

Rooftop solar panels

CoCreatr/Creative Commons

California utility regulators narrowly passed new rules that will increase costs for owners of rooftop solar systems, part of a broad reshaping of the state’s energy future.

The California Public Utilities Commission, on a 3-2 vote Thursday, stopped short of the even higher charges that the state’s investor-owned utilities wanted.

The opposing commissioners said they voted against the proposal because of the last-minute elimination of an electricity transmission fee, a move that they said made the overall arrangement too rich for the solar industry.

The decision, which initially applies only to new solar panel systems, was viewed by some as a compromise. But others say it’s a defeat for the utilities.

Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric had pressed the commission to charge solar owners hefty fees that the solar industry said would crush their business.

By Edison’s account, the average solar customer under the current structure has a monthly electric bill of about $82. Under the commission’s decision, that would increase to $91. A utility counterproposal would have increased it to $103.

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