California senate bill 288 - a solar “bill of rights”
Published on 25 Feb, 2019 by Michael Bishop
Last week, two California Senate members introduced Senate Bill 288. If passed, it’ll take California’s commitment to solar energy (and you) to the next level.
The bi-partisan bill has some specific requirements for utilities and state agencies (see below), and, more importantly, makes a big promise to California citizens.
A little background first: Under the net-energy metering policy, a home with solar panels will be credited at the normal retail electric rate for any extra solar energy sent off to the grid. This is a hugely important policy for solar energy’s continued growth. It’s currently available in most of California. Unfortunately, the policy is under threat inside and outside California. For example, net metering is no longer available in Lompoc, California (which is north of Santa Barbara). Instead, solar customers have to buy all the energy they use for 20-29¢ (it’s a tiered rate plan) but they only get a 10¢ credit for solar energy made on site. Those economics don’t pencil out!
Solar energy as a fundamental right
California Senate Bill 288 makes it a fundamental right for all homes to make and store solar energy that reduces their energy bill. The bill doesn’t guarantee that solar energy sent to the grid will get the full retail rate (in other words, it doesn’t guarantee full net metering).
...It does however guarantee that solar customers can completely eliminate their energy bill by storing their extra solar energy on site, and using it later instead of grid energy (at night time or on cloudy days). This blocks other utilities from pulling a Lompoc and forcing their customers to pay the higher retail rate for all the energy used on site.
A better rate plan for energy storage
Senate Bill 288 would require the California Public Utilities Commission to create a new rate plan for homes with batteries (such as the Tesla Powerwall battery). The rate plan would have to offer “fair compensation” for energy these batteries send to the grid.
Home batteries that are spread out across the electric grid can solve a lot of problems for electric utilities. Unlike traditional power plants, they can provide instant energy. And many of these spread-out batteries will be located right where the energy is most needed.
In addition to providing energy when needed, these spread-out batteries can offer a variety of other special services. For example, they can help utilities and state agencies manage the electric grid’s voltage. And they can provide critical backup support during blackouts and emergencies.
Electric utilities have historically been paid for the power plants they build (and related grid infrastructure). They aren’t very motivated to switch over to this new approach — where you, dear reader, are in control of your home’s energy, and can play an active role in the energy grid. California Senate Bill 288 says loud and clear to the utilities: Get with the times and embrace the new home-powered energy grid!
A safer solar journey for homes
Senate Bill 288 also makes it a “right” for homes to get clear honest communication from solar energy and battery installation companies. We don’t know how this right would be protected, but we appreciate the sentiment.
(In the meantime, you can find the most clear and honest installation companies in your area at SolarReviews.com).
Senate Bill 288 steps up California’s solar-energy leadership big time. And it demonstrates that California has your back when it comes to protecting your home energy investments.
Fingers crossed that it passes!
(We’ll update this article with the results either way.)