Solar net metering pleases trade groups, greens, not utilities

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If you’ve got solar panels on your rooftop, a new California law will pay you for the energy those panels add to the grid. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.

Sun on your roof can already spin your electric meter backward. Small renewable energy producers get credit each year for the energy they generate. But at year’s end, the credit zeros out, and everything starts all over again.

A year from January, a new law will change that. If you generate more power than you use in a year, utilities will have to give you credit you can hold on to, or cut you a check. Some utilities, like Pacific Gas and Electric, fought the bill, saying it will essentially force people who don’t generate power to pay for someone else’s solar or wind energy.

But environmentalists backed the bill, saying it will encourage owners of those small renewables to use their energy efficiently. Trade groups say the new law could encourage more consumer-owned renewables. The state Public Utilities Commission will set rates for how owners of these small solar and wind projects get paid.