At least, this is what many experts predict following the exciting news that net metering will be around for the next 20 years. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled unanimously to extend San Diego’s most popular solar incentive for the next two decades.
The extension will apply to all customers of SDGE, PGEC, and SCEC who install solar panels within the next one or two years (the exact deadline remains unclear – but July 1, 2017 seems to be the “unofficial” cutoff date).
This is obviously great news for:
- the solar industry
- San Diego’s economy
- the environment
In fact, it’s really good news all around. But why does this unanimous decision matter – and why should you care?
Why San Diego’s Net Metering Program Matters
Net metering is an ingenious and highly successful solar incentive that benefits everyone involved. As a solar customer, you’re allowed to sell your excess clean electricity to the utility company at market rates. And at night, when your panels stop working, you can buy back the electricity that you need – again at market rates.
At the end of every billing cycle, you’re only responsible for the “net” difference in electricity sold and bought.
- You obviously benefit because you’re able to sell clean electricity at a profit.
- Utility companies benefit because they don’t have to buy as much fossil fuel – they’re able to use your clean electricity instead.
- The community benefits because it enjoys a much smaller carbon footprint. More solar installations equals less overall pollution.
- The community also benefits because net metering and solar installations help to create local jobs – jobs that can’t be outsourced.
But despite these very powerful benefits, utility companies are constantly trying to get rid of net metering. They charge that solar customers don’t pay their fair share of grid maintenance costs. In fact, many utilities spent much of 2013 trying to kill net metering in an effort to protect their monopolistic business models.
Utility companies could very well win in the future. But for now (and through the summer of 2017), solar customers can rest easy.
However, if you aren’t already a solar energy customer, you might want to act fast. Like most incentives out there, net metering won’t be around forever. The program could change if rooftop solar electricity exceeds 5% of peak utility demand within San Diego.
In other words, even with the full backing of the California Public Utilities Commission, San Diego’s net metering program still operates on a first-come first-served basis.
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