098_irvine solar pic
by ecoSolargy

Virtual Net Metering: The Final Frontier

“It’s like net metering, but virtual” says OC Blogger [Danny the (Solar) Manatee].

098_irvine solar picIn last week’s post, we discussed some great solar legislation currently awaiting the governor’s signature.  While discussing SB 43 #CommunitySolarBill, we mentioned the CPUC’s Virtual Net Metering (VNM).  California’s VNM laid the groundwork for SB 43’s passage.  With VNM, tenants receive net energy metering credits for solar energy systems that aren’t physically connected to their utility meter.  There was a caveat, however: the service location and solar system had to be connected to the same utility service delivery point.  This law was designed with multi-tenant family housing in mind.  SB 43 opens VNM to systems that aren’t connected to the same service point, effectively allowing for community solar! More on community solar in Thursday’s blog, hang tight! :)

Before VNM, there were significant hurdles for multi-tenant or multi-family housing.  In many cases, each tenant needed their own meter for the utility.  For example, an apartment building owner wants to go solar to have the electricity they generate offset the tenants’ electricity. To accomplish this they would have to break apart the PV array for each tenant, each with it’s own inverter.  This increases the cost of the system significantly and complicates the design.   Apartments should be able to enjoy the economy of scale that commercial solar provides instead of being like traditional residential systems.  Commercial solar systems use larger inverters and typically have more efficient layouts for larger, more cost effective systems. Before VNM,  the only options were designing the landlord’s solar system to only offset common areas, or limiting solar to apartments where “utilities are included”.

143_Anaheim CA (1280x960)VNM was piloted with low-income housing with a program called Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH).  Not as funny as M*A*S*H, but still a great program.  The state funded 10 MW of solar installations which started reducing low-income families’ electricity bills.  For a number of these installations, solar offset 100% of their electricity. This protects them from rate inflation which, with San Onofre now shut down and most electricity coming from market-priced fuels, is certain in the future.  More importantly for Southern California, these individuals no longer have to choose whether they run the A/C or put food on the table.  This program has resulted in over 10 MW of installed solar and is expected to be extended when the governor signs AB 217 into law.

Now, this successful program is open to everyone!!!  VNM is great news for everyone, but is best for apartment complexes with large, south-facing roofs.  It works pretty simply: when a property owner installs solar, they allocate a portion of the electricity generated to each tenant and common areas.  This makes apartment communities more desirable places to live. It shows a commitment to sustainability and the environment (if you’re into that), and reduces tenants’ electric bills.  Residential solar is booming, but the rental market is still untapped.  Read about Solterra, the first net-zero luxury apartments in San Diego.

If you own property, be sure to read this part:

125_fremont CALandlords, you can go solar with little to no money down (& 5 easy payments of $29.95*) and have your tenants finance the payments.  Obviously, a business-savvy landlord wouldn’t want to pay for solar and let the tenants enjoy the savings #SorryTenants. The landlord would never recover their initial investment. Instead tenants that want to save buy a share and enjoy the electricity produced by their share.  But, solar is a long-term investment and most apartment dwellers don’t stay in the same apartment for 25 years.  #SolarLastsEvenLonger! The solution we propose, while not original, is just practical.  Basically, tenants pay monthly fees for a share in the solar system.  When all the shares are purchased, tenant’s pay less than their typical utility bill and their fees cover most of the landlord’s payments on the system.  Once the loan repaid, you start earning profit.  Oh, and did we mention you practically won’t pay any electric bills for your common areas for at least 25 years? Contact us to start monetizing your roof! What can you do as a renter?  Organize your community to petition your landlord.  If you show him enough tenants are interested, we can show them how to go solar with little to no cost!

Check out our commercial division if you’re interested in Virtual Net Metering for your properties!


*I’m sorry, that price was a joke, but seriously, solar is affordable.

NOTE: Virtual Net Metering as defined by the CPUC is only available to SCE, SDG&E, & PG&E customers.  Other utilities are available to have VNM for multi-tenant buildings, however we have confirmed that LADWP does not have a multi-tenant VNM program.  For customers without VNM, we suggest looking into Master meters, or only covering common area costs.

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