Several major solar companies showed gains on Monday, potentially reflecting industry approval of utilities legislation passed by the California legislature last Thursday. SolarCity Corp. (SCTY) saw gains exceeding 5 percent in early trading before ending the day just up just over 4.5 percent. SunPower Corporation (SPWR) was also up over 5 percent in early trading before settling into gains of over 3.5 percent, First Solar Inc. (FSLR) gained almost 3 percent before gains leveled out at just over 1 percent, and Chinese manufacturer Hanwha Solarone Co Ltd (HSOL) saw gains approaching 13 percent before retreating to a spike of just over 10 percent.
California Assembly bill 327, known as the “Parea Bill” for its author Assembly Member Henry T. Parea (D–Fresno), eliminated California’s previous four-tier system that charged the bigger energy users higher rates, replacing it with a simpler two-tier system that would see the majority of users paying the same rate. It also included a new monthly grid maintenance fee for all users of up to $10 (though Parea estimates it will begin at closer to $2 or $3 a month). The new fee is intended to get owners of distributed solar to pay their fair share of grid maintenance. Critics, however, claim that the new fee, combined with lower rates, could discourage future investment in rooftop solar panels.
Many in the solar industry still view the bill as an overall positive. It removes the cap on the total number of solar owners eligible for net metering payments, something advocates of the bill argue would benefit rooftop solar by eliminating uncertainty. The bill also clearly establishes the requirement that 33 percent of California’s retail energy sales come from renewable sources by 2020 as a floor, rather than a ceiling. This could pave the way for further increases, as some lawmakers have been discussing raising this requirement as high as 40 or 50 percent.
"Passage of this legislation means more Californians will now have access to cleaner, cheaper, and better energy," said John Stanton, co-Chair of the Alliance for Solar Choice and Vice President of Policy and Electricity Markets for SolarCity in a Thursday press release. "And greater market stability creates the opportunity for more jobs across California's rooftops."
Monday also brought news that China is slapping a new 6.5 percent trade duty on some polysilicon imported from the United States, targeting specific companies that are receiving government subsidies. Despite a strong domestic solar industry including 40 manufacturers of polysilicon, Chinese solar panel makers purchased some $2.1 billion worth of imported polysilicon.