September 22, 2013

For agricultural businesses, controlling electric costs just became easier and less expensive. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved Aggregate Net Metering (ANM), which offers two new important provisions. First, individuals can choose the best location on their property to place a solar energy generation system, unrestricted by meter location. Second, this solar system can now offset multiple meters, not just one.  One system can now offset your irrigation, residences, shop, or other parts of your operation. 

Importantly, the solar generation system no longer needs to be at the meter site, which has long been a concern for growers worried about displacing valuable crops. The solar power system does need to be on the same or adjacent land as the meter(s), but that offers considerable flexibility to landowners and businesses.

Glenn Bland, CEO of CalCom Solar, and a Central Valley businessman since 1987, is excited by the potential.

“Solar costs have already dropped 60% since 2011. Now that our Ag clients can put in a larger central solar electricity system, it will further reduce both installation and maintenance costs. Businesses can also still leverage capital and tax incentives to lock in energy security over the next three decades. “

Meter Aggregation had been on hold pending the approval of Resolution 5-4610. Utilities were concerned that Aggregated Net Metering would increase the costs for non-participating electric consumers. But the CPUC found that,

“allowing eligible customer-generators to aggregate their load from multiple meters, pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 594 will not result in an increase in the expected revenue obligations of customers who are not eligible customer-generators.”

Meter aggregation does not increase the NEM cap, which is presently set at 5% of an electric utility’s aggregate peak demand, but it will increase the speed at which that cap is used up by large customers installing solar or other renewables. Legislation also still caps each solar system at one megawatt (1 MW) of generated energy – which, typically, would offset numerous meters.

The electric utilities now have 14 days in which to file a Tier 2 Letter revising their NEM tariffs to enable meter aggregation.