Keep Up the Pressure-Defend California’s Local Solar Future!

(01/2022) The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision on Net Energy Metering (NEM) of roof-top solar which will eliminate the possibility of democratic, equitable and sustainable local clean energy in California. Though the decision on this proposal will no longer be voted on Thursday, January 27, we urge you to continue putting pressure on Governor Newsom and the CPUC by taking action to ensure local solar policy incentives are not gutted.
The proposed decision implements a charge of $8 per kWh per month for those who put solar on the roof, which means an average charge of $57 per month average for residential solar customers, and thousands of dollars a month for schools and other public buildings.The decision also calls for an 80% reduction in the credit for energy from rooftop solar systems exported to the grid. This reduction means that it will take longer to pay back the cost of a rooftop solar system than it is expected to last. The proposal also calls for reducing the time that existing rooftop solar customers will be exempted from these changes from 20 to 15 years after installation of the system. The “new” NEM puts the cost of rooftop solar out of reach for any but wealthy customers.
The proposed decision ensures control of the current centralized–corporate energy system by the monopoly utilities such as PG&E. Without local clean energy generation, local ownership and control of energy resources will be impossible. There can be no community owned and controlled microgrids without local generation. This is the solution that environmental justice communities need in lieu of a continuing legacy of fossil fuel generated electricity from remote or local gas-fired power sources. Far from reducing utility bills, eliminating local solar will result in increased bills to pay for the extra long distance transmission lines to carry remote energy to where it is needed and to pay for the wildfire damage that those lines continue to cause.
Without rooftop solar, all communities will be more reliant on electricity coming from far away. Recent events in California and elsewhere (eg. Texas, Puerto Rico) have shown that remote energy is not resilient, especially at a time of increasing climate catastrophes. Low income and BIPOC communities suffer the most from power outages due to shut down transmission lines. Low income rural communities in California have suffered the most from wildfires.
If the proposed decision is adopted it will also have catastrophic effects on equitable access to rooftop solar in California. Though the new NEM would include a rooftop solar subsidy for low income customers, the policy would drive the cost of solar so high that even with the subsidy, rooftop solar will be much more expensive than it is now. LCEA has long argued for a differentiated tariff for rooftop solar that would expand the ability of low income and BIPOC communities to participate in local clean energy. The current CPUC proposal moves California in the opposite direction.
This proposal will kill rooftop solar in California by making it unaffordable. That will result in solar companies leaving the state or going out of business, and thousands of jobs lost. Both Arizona and Nevada passed bills that penalized solar owners. After the resulting dramatic collapse of the solar industry, both states have repealed those measures. Hopefully, California can learn from their mistakes and not further empower criminal corporations like PG&E.
The ultimate impact of the CPUC NEM 3.0 proposal will be that the people of California will be left at the mercy of the same greedy corporations that have controlled our energy system for far too long.