ICYMI: Here’s what people are saying about why California’s Net Energy Metering program (NEM) needs reform

Posted on May 21, 2021

The program is a “reverse Robin Hood phenomenon where low-income customers are paying for higher-income customers’ solar systems.”

Sacramento – A story in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday looked at the debate about the state’s solar subsidy program, Net Energy Metering (NEM). There is a wide-ranging, diverse set of constituencies advocating for NEM reform, many outside of our Affordable Clean Energy for All coalition. Here’s what a few non-coalition members had to say about why they believe NEM should be reformed:

  • “[Assembly Member Lorena] Gonzalez said she has solar panels on her home and believes the current net metering program pays her too much. She said her most recent electric bill was negative, meaning she owed no money and doesn’t have to pay fixed costs for the electric system that her neighbors without solar can’t escape.”

  • “But a February reportled by UC Berkeley researchers found that greater adoption of rooftop solar panels in the state ‘has disproportionately shifted cost recovery onto non-solar customers.’ Severin Borenstein, an energy economist and an author of the report, said the growth of rooftop solar under current net metering rules was a significant driver of high electric rates, though not the only major factor. He estimates that overhauling net metering could save the average household about $75 per year.”

  • “But even The Utility Reform Network, normally a staunch critic of investor-owned utilities, thinks the net metering program needs revisions. Matthew Freedman, a staff attorney for the organization, said the program’s costs ‘have gotten completely out of control,’ creating a ‘reverse Robin Hood phenomenon where low-income customers are paying for higher-income customers’ solar systems. If you live in San Francisco and your neighbor puts solar on their roof, should you have to pay their share of the wildfire costs? That’s how it works today,’ Freedman said.”

Members of Affordable Clean Energy for All, are collectively calling for reform to NEM to fix the unfair cost shift must be fixed before it gets se.