Last month, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) proposed a new rate policy that could have potentially harmful implications for the solar industry.
SDG&E requested a new plan that would impose a “network use charge” for net-metered PV customers said to, “divide operational costs among solar-owning and non-solar-owning customers more equitably” according to an article published in Solar Industry.
Installers in the San Diego area are concerned that the network charge will make owning PV systems impractical and dramatically harm the business. Those opposing the proposal also fear this could set a dangerous precedent for other utilities–in California as well as the rest of the country.
I definitely agree that if this new network use charge is introduced it could negatively effect solar installers and have serious implications for the solar industry in general.
Utility companies have initial costs that they need to recover, and with more customers going solar and not demanding as much electricity from said utility, they are losing money. As the article points out, if San Diego succeeds in implementing this fee to make up for utility loses when customers go solar, other California cities may follow suit.
PV customers who anticipated having a low to no utility bill could find themselves paying $35 dollars per month in fees and potentially destroying the system economy. Additionally, new PV owners may be deterred from investing in solar with the potential of monthly fees looming in the near years. The article does note that those who purchase PV systems because of environmental motives (verses financial) will most likely continue to buy regardless of the network use charge.
Unfortunately, not everyone investing in solar is concerned with the environment. so it is extremely important to keep both the environmental and financial market open for potential solar buyers to keep the demand for solar infrastructure up.
If the network use charge is implemented, it creates a huge problem for marketing solar in that it makes projecting charges extremely difficult. And as Kay Stefferud (principal consultant at EnerNex) says, “Any uncertainty hurts [solar installers] ability to sell systems.”