PUC decides not to regulate rooftop solar panel companies

The Public Utility Commission has decided not to pursue the right regulate rooftop solar companies, following a month-long debate over whether the agency should treat companies that offer independent energy generation like utility-scale companies.

The commission raised concerns about regulating the solar companies during the process to approve an agreement between electric grid operators, customers and so-called distributed generators, such as rooftop solar, that offer off-grid energy. The agreement was in the works for two years, and is meant to govern how companies that offer products like rooftop solar interact with the PUC.

Chairman Donna Nelson expressed concerns in November that, since the commission does not regulate rooftop solar, those companies would not be subject to its consumer protection rules and advertising guidelines. It’s an issue that public utility commissions in western states have begun to consider as rooftop solar becomes more popular.

Nelson’s biggest concern was that the PUC could not hold rooftop solar companies accountable for consumer complaints. Nelson, one of three commissioners, voted against the new rule, but the rule passed 2-1.

Rooftop solar has been slow to catch on in Houston, but SolarCity, a rooftop solar company, starting offer solar-panel setups to customers in Houston this summer.