California Lifts Ceiling on Rooftop Solar

California raised the ceiling on the amount of rooftop solar that qualifies for net metering – where utilities pay building owners for sending excess energy back to the grid.

In a unanimous decision, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) lifted the maximum capacity of rooftop solar systems from the current 2400 megawatts (MW) to 5,200 MW, enough electricity to supply about 2.1 million homes. 

Net metering is a strong incentive for homeowners and businesses to add enough solar to supply themselves and have more leftover. 

Raising the ceiling will help the state meet its target of generating 33% of energy from renewables by 2020. And it will support the solar industry, which employs 25,000 people and has raised more than $10 billion in private investment.

Some consumer groups are concerned that mostly wealthy people can afford to put enough solar up to get net metering, shifting the cost of the program to lower-income homeowners, renters and others who don’t want or can’t take advantage of solar. 

But a PUC study shows that paying for net metering costs $140 million a year, easily outweighed by the benefits of addressing climate change. PUC will conduct another cost-benefit study to be completed next year to better fine tune the net metering incentive for solar owners, reports the LA Times.

That analyis will be important in reauthorizing the program when it expires Jan. 1, 2015.

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