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New solar plan sparks debate
solar energy photo1
TID's proposed rate design for new solar customers was met with opposition from solar customers and providers, particularly regarding the Districts proposal to switch from annual net metering to monthly net metering. - photo by Journal file photo

Solar providers are doing everything in their power to convince the Turlock Irrigation District to reconsider its proposed rate design for new solar customers after the District reached its 5 percent net metering cap in November.

“TID’s decision to replace net energy metering is both premature and excessive given the scale of solar in the TID service territory, as well as the significant value solar brings to the environment and local economy,” said Andy Schwartz of Alliance for Solar Choice.

Under the previously mandated California net metering program, solar customers were able to credit their generation at retail rates directly against their load, as well as net over an annual period.

Fortunately for these customers, assistant general manager of power supply Brian LaFollette reports that nothing will change.

“We have never contemplated, nor are we currently contemplating to change those requirements that we have now for net energy metering customers,” said LaFollette. “So if you’re a net energy metering customer already, then we will not change the rules and we will comply with the law for net energy metering.”

However, since having reached its established peak of 27.81 megawatts of solar generation, or 5 percent cap, the district is no longer obligated to continue California net metering to new customer-generators in the service area.

In a public hearing in December, TID staff went before the Board of Directors to present a recommended rate design for new solar customers, which was met with opposition from solar customers and providers, particularly regarding the District’s proposal to switch from annual net metering to monthly net metering.

Prior to the District meeting its peak, TID netted solar customers over the year, allowing them to possibly generate power in January in order to offset bills in July—a benefit that will no longer be available with monthly true-ups.

“Going from annual netting to a monthly netting approach does have really significant implications on the economics and it fundamentally reduces the value that customers can capture from their solar systems,” said Schwartz. “It eliminates the ability to apply excess generation value produced during on-peak hours to offset off-peak usage charges and the value accumulated in some months to offset usage charges in other months.”

Staff also presented an update during Tuesday’s workshop regarding the method TID uses to calculate the value of electricity solar customers sell back to the District.

Under the California-mandated net metering program, solar customers are compensated for annual over-generation at the full retail rate. At the end of the annual period, these customers are paid system annual average rate of $0.0711/kWh.

With the new solar program, customers are paid based on California Independent System Operator market prices, which detail hourly prices over the customer actual billing period. On-peak and off-peak periods are averaged separately to determine rate and ultimately applied to excess generation each month.

The solar workshop on Tuesday was purely informational and no action was taken. According to TID, it is now staff’s intention to consider questions raised by the Board regarding adjustments to the netting interval, although no official timeline has been decided.

“We definitely understand that solar is not going away, it’s just our job to realize how best to implement all the programs and be fair to all our customers here and I think we’re doing a great job of that,” said Board President Ron Macedo. “I’m sure all of the solar constituents here today will help us and keep us in line to try to do the best we can and be fair with everybody.”