Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, is chairman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee.

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Another View: Energy metering study will aid the grid

Published: Sunday, May. 20, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2E
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 20, 2012 - 9:37 am

Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, chairman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee, is responding to the May 4 Viewpoints article "Don't let utilities undermine solar economy," which stated: "Make no mistake, this utility-backed legislation will stymie job growth and threaten our state's clean energy leadership position."

I am the author of Assembly Bill 2514, a bill to study the costs and benefits of net energy metering.

California's history and commitment to environmental and clean energy leadership is unquestionable, with energy efficiency standards, renewable energy programs and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, to name a few.

In California, areas served by investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric – are required by law to offer net energy metering. It requires billing credits to be given to solar customers, at retail rates, for customers who produce more electricity than they use.

Net metering customers are also allowed to apply those credits against their non-energy costs, such as the grid they use when the system isn't operating. They also offset their contribution toward California's public purpose programs that provide assistance to low-income customers and support energy efficiency and solar rebates. These costs don't go away – they are paid for by the rest of the utility customers. This means higher electricity bills for anyone who is not a net metering customer.

In California, more than 25 percent of electricity customers are served by publicly owned utilities, like Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In those areas, net metering customers pay their cost of maintaining the grid and their share of public purpose programs.

Customer acceptance, state and federal incentives, financing and declining costs have resulted in more customers signing up for net metering. This is a good thing. With so many new solar customers taking advantage of net metering, we lack information about how the transferring of grid maintenance costs affects other ratepayers. Likewise, we cannot quantify the benefits of net metering that are accruing to ratepayers. Current estimates range that the cost is "not much" to "it will grow to $1.5 billion per year." We need better information to understand the cost and benefits.

I am calling for a study to examine how the cost of the grid is shared among ratepayers. It will also examine the benefits that ratepayers may be receiving. This examination will ensure the Legislature will have this information when net metering legislation is considered. AB 2514 requires the California Public Utilities Commission to prepare the study by June 2013.

There is no doubt that I support solar energy. With the right information we can make sure California continues to be the national leader in clean energy in a sustainable and equitable manner.

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