SAN FRANCISCO – As the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) considers gutting the state’s bedrock solar program, a broad coalition of national and state environmental organizations delivered a letter Wednesday to CPUC commissioners and Gov. Gavin Newsom urging them to immediately issue an alternative that allows rooftop solar and battery storage to continue to grow. The letter was delivered by 70 organizations, including Environment America, Environment California, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group and the Center for Biological Diversity.
“California has long been a national clean energy leader – from putting solar on a million rooftops to committing to 100% clean electricity,” said Laura Deehan, Environment California Research & Policy state director. “This proposed decision flies in the face of that leadership and the more than 120,000 Californians who have asked Gov. Newsom and the CPUC to save solar. California needs more rooftop solar, not less, if we want to protect our climate and our environment.”
The letter is in response to the CPUC’s proposed decision on net metering, a program that compensates solar customers for the extra electricity they send back to the electricity grid. The proposed decision would make damaging cuts to the program that has helped 1.3 million Californians invest in a clean energy future.
Specifically, CPUC’s proposal would penalize consumers who want to invest their own money in clean energy solutions. It establishes a solar tax of about $48 per month for a typical home solar system, which would be the highest solar penalty in the country. It also slashes compensation for extra electricity sold back to the grid by about 88%.
The commission’s plan would also reduce protections for existing solar customers. This proposed decision kicks current consumer solar customers off favorable net energy metering (NEM) program rates five years earlier than promised to them by the CPUC.
“All eyes are on California right now,” said Environment America Solar Energy and Storage Campaigns Director Ben Sonnega. “The Golden State has been a leader on rooftop solar, but an abrupt move like this will not only go a long way to knocking the state off that perch, but can and will also spell out bad news for the whole country if this type of policy spreads.”
When these sorts of policies have been instituted in other states, they’ve deeply damaged solar development. For example, in 2016, Nevada instituted a solar tax and cuts to NEM compensation. While that state’s changes were less severe than what is currently being proposed by CPUC, Nevada’s policy shift was followed by a 47% reduction in residential solar installations over the next year. In 2017, Nevada restored net metering, which led to an increase in solar adoption and an eventual return to residential rooftop solar adoption’s earlier levels.
Gov. Newsom recently indicated that there will be some revisions made to the proposal. However, no final decision has been made.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what revisions will be made to the original proposal,” Deehan said. “The key things we want in the revision are removing all solar penalty fees, fairly compensating customers for the true value of the energy that they add to the grid, and honoring the 20-year agreements made to existing solar customers.”
This letter comes following the release of a full- page color advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Governor’s hometown paper, calling on him to “Save Rooftop Solar.”