California Supreme Court to hear appeal seeking to overturn new rooftop solar rules

Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Business News

The Protect Our Communities Foundation, the Environmental Working Group and the Center for Biological Diversity at first called on the utilities commission to rehear its decision, but they were turned down.

The three groups then took their case to the California Court of Appeals but lost there as well.

In a 35-page decision written by Associate Justice Victor Rodríguez last December, the appeals court gave substantial deference to the public utilities commission's decision-making process, saying in a 3-0 ruling, "We conclude the (new tariff) adopted by the commission bears a reasonable relation to the statutory purposes and language."

Roger Lin, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said there are two big issues the three groups opposing the NEM 3 decision will argue before the high court.

"The obvious one is did the Public Utilities Commission consider all of the right costs, all of the right benefits of rooftop solar," Lin said, "and did the PUC create a specific alternative that was good enough for disadvantaged communities."

The other, Lin said, centers on "whether the PUC is this untouchable agency that court has to provide unique deference."

The Union-Tribune emailed the California Public Utilities Commission asking for its reaction to the state Supreme Court taking the case but did not receive a response, as of 3:30 p.m. Monday.


Late last year, the Solar & Storage Association said the number of rooftop installations in the state had dropped between 77 and 85 percent since the implementation of NEM 3 rules.

In January, solar company Sunrun laid off 62 employees in three locations in San Diego County, including 37 at a branch office it was shutting down in the Miramar area.

The debate over NEM 3's rules changes comes as California looks to generate 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free energy sources by 2045, if not sooner.

With more than 1.8 million projects at homes, businesses and other locations, California has more rooftop installations than any state in the nation.

Rooftop solar customers who had their systems installed under earlier iterations of NEM will still get compensated at the retail rate for 20 years from the time their systems were installed before they are switched to the new rules.

For example, a customer who had a system installed in 2018 would still get credited at the retail rate until 2038. But after that, the customer will be credited at the lower NEM 3 rate.

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