AB 327 (Perea) passes Senate 27-6

AB 327 (Perea) just passed the Senate on September 9 with a vote of 27 to 6 on the floor. From here, the bill goes to the Assembly for an up or down concurrence vote before going to the governor's desk. The bill can not be changed at this point.

AB 327 is nothing short of a big, historic solar bill that continues to set a high bar. And, thanks to our joint efforts, the bill is stronger than when we first got engaged and, equally important, our coalition is stronger as well.

AB 327 was amended on the 9th to address two of CALSEIA's remaining concerns, namely the protections for existing customers against forced changes to their existing net metering agreements, and protections for future customers from anti-solar taxes and charges.

The bill directs the CPUC to finalize so-called "grandfathering" rules by March 2014 to minimize the uncertainty in our market between now and when the new rules are in place. There was a robust bi-partisan discussion on the Senate Floor about how existing customers should be protected and the governor's office has personally promised that "a deal is a deal" and will be honored at the PUC.

Second, the bill limits the forum for any additional fees or charges above and beyond what non-solar customers face to a proceeding that includes all three utilities. In other words, they can't try to sneak anti-solar charges within rate cases every three years on a utility-by-utility basis.

In the big picture, AB 327 removes the current 2014 cliff on net metering and codifies that another 5,500 MW of customer-sited solar can sign up for "Net Metering 1.0", i.e. full retail net metering, between now and July 2017. It directs the CPUC to create a new net metering program, "NEM 2.0", that is unlimited and that ensures that the customer-sighted solar market continues to grow. It also directs the CPUC to ensure that the new program spur customer-sited solar in disadvantaged communities.

On the flip side, the utilities are getting a lot out of this bill as well. They are getting the rate reforms they've wanted for several years. They are getting the authorization for the PUC to levy up to a $10 fixed charge on all residential customers, solar and non-solar alike. And we had to accept a lot of uncertainty within the actual bill, even as we strove for certainty in our market.

But it is critical that we acknowledge what this bill is: a breath of new life for rooftop solar and a transformative vision of making solar power an unbridled source of energy for our state in the near future.

Certainly, our work is cut out for us going forward. CALSEIA is going to have to unite and work together to ensure that the rules adopted by the CPUC over the next 24 months get the job done.

I want to commend the CALSEIA team, especially our lobbyist Will Gonzalez who opened doors and allowed us to work to not only pass this bill but get it into the strongest form possible. 

Of course, AB 327 is a group effort and the companies who put the most into the effort, including SolarCity, SunRun, SunPower and Sullivan Solar, deserve a lot of applause, as does the work of Donne Brownsey on behalf of SEIA. 

And, while we didn't get everything we wanted or even needed in this bill, we did end on a high note with a very active and engaged customer-base who we can work with and engage at the PUC.

Thanks again for all your help. Please feel free to call or email if you have any questions. We'll be setting up a time next week to make ourselves available to go through the bill in greater detail and discuss strategies moving forward. Stay tuned for more info.