County to Seek Role in Solar Rate Hearings

December 6, 2011 | 3:01pm

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to seek a role in proceedings to decide whether the region’s solar power users will pay higher electricity rates.

San Diego Gas & Electric has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to approve a “network use charge” for solar users. The Commission’s proceedings are expected to take 12 to 18 months, and the Board’s move Tuesday means the County will request to “intervene,” or become a party in the matter.

In that role, the County would have a seat at the table and help determine and endorse a fair rate scheme for solar users, which include residents, cities, water districts, school districts and the County itself.

Solar customers typically contribute energy to the grid during the day, when they produce more than they use, and draw from the grid at night. SDG&E has said these customers pay low electrical rates that don’t cover their share of grid maintenance costs, so traditional users are subsidizing solar customers.

However, opponents of SDG&E’s proposal say solar users contribute clean, renewable energy to the region and provide a benefit that outweighs any subsidy. These critics say the proposed network use charge is a massive rate hike that will discourage future solar installations and hurt residents and agencies that have already invested in solar energy systems. 

Watch this item addressed at the Board of Supervisors meeting