Upcoming rule overhaul has California rooftop solar installers working in overdrive
Published in Business News
Stellar Solar has been in the rooftop solar business for more than 20 years, but company co-founder Michael Powers has never seen his Oceanside, California-based operation so busy.
"We're running as fast we can right now," Powers said, "trying to handle all the incoming requests for information and people wanting to move forward to try to get something done before the rules change."
The new rules, passed in December by the California Public Utilities Commission, overhauled the financial incentives to install new solar systems on the roofs of homes and businesses across the Golden State.
But the updated regulations don't go into effect for another three weeks. In many cases, that's led solar installers to cope with a surge of potential customers, looking to beat the deadline and get their systems grandfathered into older, more generous, financial terms.
A survey of 34 installers in California reported consumer demand is up an average of 64 percent compared to last year, according to EnergySage, a company that helps customers find reputable solar companies and installers.
"There has been nothing like this; this is unprecedented," said EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal. "Installers are working 18-hour days, seven days a week."
In December, the Public Utilities Commission updated the regulations for net energy metering, which determines the size of the credits that California's 1.6 million rooftop solar customers receive on their utility bills when their solar systems generate more energy than they consume.
One of the key provisions of what's called NEM 3.0 alters the way rooftop solar owners are compensated for the excess electricity their systems send back to the grid.
Instead of being credited at the retail rate of electricity, customers will get paid at the "actual avoided cost," which is lower during the daylight hours when the sun is out and solar energy is abundant and cheap. Solar industry advocates have estimated the new rules will reduce the average compensation rate by 75 percent.
But the NEM 3.0 rules don't go into effect until midnight April 14.
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