CPUC Expands Virtual Net Metering
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a resolution that will make it more cost-effective for solar systems to be installed on multitenant and multi-meter properties. Known as Virtual Net Metering (VNM), this new billing arrangement allows the utilities to issue bill credits for the energy produced by a renewable generating system to other tenants in the building. This resolution was the final step in a lengthy stakeholder process to implement VNM, a part of the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing program that was expanded by the commission to the general market sector in a decision last year.
In the past, regulations had made it nearly impossible to install a single solar or renewable energy system that could offset multiple meters, which meant that renters and businesses with leased spaces were essentially excluded from going solar.
VNM allows multitenant and multimeter properties to install a single generation system, such as solar, wind or fuel cells, to cover the electricity load of both common area and tenant meters, thereby avoiding the need to connect individual distributed generation systems to each meter, which is often cost-prohibitive or technically impossible.
The CPUC's expansion of VNM is a significant development in the growing market for distributed generation and will be available to customers later this summer.
Update (1/2/14): SB43
California Senate Bill 43 creates the "Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program" for each of California’s large investor-owned electric utilities, which will provide a renewable option to customers who are unable to site solar panels or other renewable generation projects on their own property. Inspired by “community solar” efforts in other states, the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program seeks to install 600 MW of new solar projects across the state, with 100 MW of that amount sited in disadvantaged and environmentally impacted communities.
Projects installed under this program will be limited to 20 MW in size, and customers will be able to purchase up to 100% of their electricity needs from renewable sources through the program. While customers are expected to pay a premium to cover renewable procurement costs, they will also receive bill credits associated with the renewable energy attributes of the solar projects. After the CPUC approves further details about the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program, it may be available for customer enrollment as early as the end of 2014. Under SB 43, the program is set to run until January 2019.