Gov. switches venue on solar bill

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Sept. 16, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

What happens if the centerpiece of your energy package is bottled up in the Legislature with no chance of further legislative action until January?  If you're Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, you shift gears and try your luck at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Within hours of the adjournment of the 2005 session, the Schwarzenegger administration was planning how to accomplish its ambitious "Million Solar Roofs Initiative" (MSRI) through a CPUC rulemaking, without legislation.  The proposal will likely be folded into the Distributed Generation proceeding, with a proposed decision expected as soon as next month.

The goal of MSRI is to place one million solar energy systems, or the equivalent 3,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity, on new or existing residential and commercial buildings by 2018 through a declining rebate program that grants rebates on the installation of solar energy systems starting at $2.80 per watt and declining by seven percent a year until the rebate is $0 in 2015.  

CMTA has an "oppose unless amended" position on SB 1 (Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles), the bill that didn’t make it out of the legislature this year, and will likely be making the same arguments at the CPUC, if, as expected, the new proposal is substantially the same as the bill.  A key concern is how the costs of the program would be allocated to customers of the utility.  A usage-based charge, the most likely allocation method, saddles energy-intensive manufacturers with a disproportionate share of program costs compared with other customer classes.  CMTA will continue to press for methodology that allocates MSRI costs based on overall demand profiles and peak usage, and spreads the program cost among customer classes based on each customer class's contribution to peak demand.  A peak usage methodology would have the effect of avoiding significant additional costs on the industrial class, who already pay exorbitantly high rates.

SB 1, currently in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, can still be taken up in January, but it may not be necessary if the CPUC acts before then.
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