CALIFORNIA – On October 16 the California Public Utilities Commission issued a decision that established the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) Program as part of the California Solar Initiative (CSI). In order to encourage solar installations on multi-tenant affordable housing properties the decision directs PG&E, Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company to file tariffs for a “virtual net metering” program. Virtual net metering (VNM) will allow the electricity produced by a single solar installation to be credited to the benefit of multiple tenants in the building without requiring the system to be physically connected to each tenant’s meter. Essentially, the electricity produced by the system would be net-balanced against total building electricity consumption, as if the building had a single, or “virtual,” master meter. Credits for solar energy production would be allocated to all units (both tenant units and common areas) in a predetermined proportion. Utilities must file VNM tariffs within 120 days of the order which contain the following provisions:
• The allocation of benefits from a single solar energy system should be allowed to offset consumption on individually metered properties, without adversely impacting building tenants;
• The building owner may determine the percentage of credits to be allocated to common area meters versus individual tenant meters, which will remain fixed for at least five years;
• Annual credits may not exceed the associated estimated load for the coming year;
• The percentage of credits allocated to individual tenant meters should be credited across all individual meters based on the relative size of the tenant’s unit;
• The building owner/manager should be responsible for installing a generator output meter capable of recording system output in fifteen minute increments;
• Excess credits should be carried forward monthly;
• No additional charges or administration fees should apply to tenants who benefit from the VNM tariff.
Utilities will be allowed to recover reasonable costs for implementation of VNM from the administrative budget for the general market CSI program. The PUC directed the Administrative Law Judge to hear comments on expanding VNM to customers other than low-income, multi-tenant customers (such as shopping malls and apartment complexes).