California county brings in a ringer to champion the return of local net metering
- Southern California's Riverside County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance last Tuesday essentially requiring Imperial Irrigation District (IID) to restart its net metering program.
- The public utility suspended new subscriptions to its net energy metering program in February 2016, after reaching a state-legislated program cap of 5% of its peak electricity demand.
- IID sued Riverside to block the ordinance, saying the requirement would impinge on the California Public Utilities Commission's regulatory authority. The county replied by accepting legal assistance from Renova, the largest solar installer in the area.
The debate over net metering has often focused on what value or costs residential solar brings to the grid. California is currently working to develop a more definitive estimate, and hopes to have the work complete by the end of this year.
Renova lobbied hard for the Riverside ordinance, which is not surprising, according to an editorial by the Desert Sun last Friday. The solar company offered its legal team to defend the ordinance against IID's lawsuit and said it would shoulder any expense.
IID serves California's Imperial and Coachella valleys, the latter of which is an ideal location for solar. The farming industry there could also benefit from access to net metering, according to solar advocates.
The utility ended the net metering program after adopting more than 50 MW of solar net metering contracts. The utility says while it "could choose to exceed the limit, it cannot be compelled to do so."
New applications from customers wanting to send excess power back to the grid are processed under a new "net billing" program, which is not as generous to solar customers.
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