Solar fee may push Californians to flee grid, Sunrun CEO says

The potential cost of connecting a rooftop solar system to California’s grid could prompt more state residents to want to leave it, the head of the largest U.S. rooftop installation company said.

“That’s a dangerous road,” Mary Powell, State regulators may impose monthly connection fees as California works to reform its rooftop incentive program, the CEO of Sunrun Inc. said. “You’re just encouraging more people to defect. It’s not positive.”

Homeowners with solar systems receive credit from their utility company for the electricity they generate, and in some cases are able to sell it. The financial incentive, called net metering, has helped solar boom in California, which has at least 1.3 million rooftop systems.

However, the state’s major investor-owned utilities — Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric — say solar customers are now seeing so much savings through incentive programs that they End up not paying their fair share. The cost of operating the grid.

Utilities and some consumer advocates argue that this is causing costs to be passed on to those who can’t afford solar panels.

Pushing for economic equity was one of the considerations the state was considering when revising its incentive program. In addition, officials want to restructure incentives for people to install batteries with solar systems to help meet energy needs when the sun goes down.

An earlier proposal that would cut incentives for rooftop customers and add new monthly fees could slow solar growth — a key part of California’s push to fully green the grid by 2045. Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to rework the plan.

At least two solar analysts expect state regulators to release a new proposed plan this month. Representatives for Newsom did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Going off the grid can be a challenge for many homeowners.

“It’s very difficult when just combining solar energy with storage,” Helen Cole An analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in an email Monday. “Solar-plus-storage systems can provide backup power in less than a day to several weeks.”

In an interview Monday at the Sunrun warehouse in the Los Angeles area, Powell said she hoped the state’s plan would “improve incrementally.”

“Does Newsom really want to be on the wrong side of a customer-led revolution? A cleaner, more sustainable way to operate the energy grid of the future?” she said.

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