SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — California’s three investor-owned utilities, including the largest utility in the country, PG&E, have joined together to pressure a regulatory agency set up to protect consumers from dangerous, expensive, and unreliable energy into making consumer solar two times more expensive than it is today, while slashing the value of solar electricity sent back to the grid on hot summer days by 77%. The utility’s proposal would make solar out of reach for most low- and middle-income consumers just when recent studies show they make up nearly 50% of today’s market.
“California ratepayers have suffered deadly wildfires, repeated blackouts, and rising energy bills and now the utilities want the government to penalize them for adding solar to their roof all in the name of lowering energy bills. Californians simply aren’t buying it.” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, CALSSA Executive Director referring to a public opinion poll put out by her association yesterday.
Under fire by the utilities is a program called net energy metering, or NEM, which allows consumers who have solar on their apartment building or school to generate energy onsite and send surplus electrons back to the grid in exchange for a simple bill credit. Utilities have long opposed net metering because it reduces the need to build more poles and wires to transport electrons from distant power plants, which in turn cuts into utility profits. Since 2012, California’s investor-owned utilities posted $20 billion in profits fueled in large part by their ability to charge ratepayers more than $20 billion in transmission line projects during roughly the same time period.
“Rooftop solar cuts down on the need to build expensive transmission lines which is why the utilities are always after us,” said Del Chiaro. “Solar roofs save everyone money, not to mention build a more resilient grid, but they cut into utility profits. Utilities are trying to blame their huge structural shortcomings on consumers and small businesses.”
Utility proposals for modifying net metering program would make the following changes:
- The highest solar fees in America, charging a typical residential consumer an unavoidable fee of $78 per month on average just to have solar on their roof.1
- Non-residential customers would also be hit with huge fees. A typical school, for example, wanting to invest in solar would be charged an unavoidable $950 monthly fee in PG&E territory, $1,100 in Southern California Edison territory, and $3,400 per month in the San Diego area.2
- Reduces the credit consumers receive for surplus solar electricity sent back to the grid on hot summer days by 77%. This means that when a solar user shares electricity with their neighbor, the utility would charge the neighbor 25 cents while giving the solar user 5.7 cents in bill credits.
- In addition to the new fees and cuts, the IOU proposal would also require monthly true ups, preventing consumers from carrying forward their unused credits from month to month.
Roughly one in ten California ratepayers have solar, totaling more than a million consumers, including 150,000 CARE customers, and helping spur a burgeoning solar industry that supports thousands of small businesses and over 70,000 jobs. The California Energy Commission estimates California will need five times as much solar to meet its clean energy goals and help fight climate change. CALSSA contends that the utility proposals would stall out one of the bright spots in the California economy as small businesses and consumers struggle to recover from Covid-19.
CALSSA is part of a growing coalition of consumer, environmental, and community groups standing up for consumer choice and local solar energy. The group has a website www.SaveCaliforniaSolar.org. Yesterday, CALSSA and the Solar Rights Alliance put out a public opinion poll showing utility company efforts to roll back net metering are highly unpopular among California voters. Instead, the poll showed strong support for net metering across parties, and a bipartisan desire for California leaders to do more to encourage the growth of rooftop solar power. Over 11,000 people have signed a petition to Governor Gavin Newsom and the CPUC to urge them to protect consumer solar.
The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has advanced the common interest of the solar and storage industry for over 40 years, making California the most robust market in the U.S. The association is the state’s largest clean energy business group with over 600 member companies, primarily small businesses based in communities throughout the state, representing an array of businesses that manufacture, design, install, finance and provide other resources to the growing local solar and storage market in California. Learn more at www.calssa.org.
1 $56 per month in SCE; $86 per month for PG&E; and $91 per month for SDG&E for a typical 6 kilowatt system.
2 Based on a 250 kilowatt system
SOURCE California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA)