Regulatory policy

California delays decision on rooftop solar policy reform

Feb 3 (Reuters) – California officials said on Thursday they needed more time to consider whether to pass a controversial proposal that would reform the state’s main incentive for rooftop solar power.

The move is at least a temporary victory for solar installation companies like Sunrun Inc (RUN.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and SunPower Corp (SPWR.O) who have warned of a sharp decline in installations that would hurt California’s efforts to fight climate change if the revisions were implemented.

California is home to approximately 40% of the nation’s residential solar power capacity.

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A notice to parties involved in rulemaking by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said the commissioner handling the proceeding “has requested additional time to analyze the case and consider revisions to the proposed decision based on comments from the parties”.

The commissioner, CPUC chairwoman Alice Reynolds, joined the regulator late last year and was not involved in the lengthy process of reviewing changes to the policy, known as net metering, which has supported the dramatic growth of residential solar in California. Another member has also joined the five-person board in recent weeks.

Reynolds intends to hold oral arguments which will be scheduled “at a later date,” the notice said.

Under the proposal, which was unveiled by the CPUC in December, homeowners would receive a lower rate for the electricity their rooftop panels send to the grid and pay a monthly fee of $8 per kilowatt to maintain the electrical infrastructure.

The CPUC said at the time that the changes were necessary to encourage adoption of battery storage technology so that excess electricity could be kept in reserve, and said the policy amounted to a billions subsidy dollars for wealthy property owners at the expense of other taxpayers.

The proposal could have been voted on by the committee as early as last month. The solar industry has mounted a lobbying blitz against the reforms in recent weeks.

“The proposed decision never made sense for a host of reasons,” Sean Gallagher, vice president of state and regulatory affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national solar trade group, said in a statement. . “We look forward to continuing to work with the California Public Utilities Commission as it considers any net metering changes.”

Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for Affordable Clean Energy for All, a utility-backed group that has backed reforms such as fees for solar homeowners, said he hopes the delay “means that more is being done to address the unfair cost shift that is driving up utility bills for non-solar customers.”

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Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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