SAN FRANCISCO – Several California clean energy groups are urging the state to make solar more accessible and affordable for low- and moderate-income families and reject a plan that would cause monthly bills to soar for current and future residential solar customers.
In a letter sent this week to the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, the Environmental Working Group, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, 350 Bay Area and the Clean Coalition urged regulators to reject a list of recommendations submitted by the state’s Public Advocates Office in August.
If adopted, the recommendations would produce some of the highest solar-specific fixed charges in the country.
From the letter to the CPUC:
Our group strongly disagrees with the recently submitted ‘Joint Recommendations’ opening brief to this proceeding announced by the Public Advocate's Office and submitted on August 31st. It is crucial to point out the brief specifically pushes what would be some of the highest solar specific fixed charges in the entire country. The proposal would lead to a significantly smaller distributed generation customer base in California just as the state needs more of the attributes onsite that distributed generation and energy storage can provide.
The proposal, known as Joint Recommendations, would create a new punitive fee of between $36 and $42 per month for a typical residential rooftop solar and battery storage system. The fee would be nearly $5,000 per month for farms and $11,000 for schools.
In addition to the Public Advocates Office, the other organizations supporting the plan include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Coalition of California Utility Employees, California Wind Energy Association, the Utility Reform Network and the Independent Energy Producers Association.
The Joint Recommendations piggyback on the proposal to the CPUC by Pacific Gas & Electric, or PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric that seeks to significantly increase fixed charges on solar customers, including on low-income solar customers.
If the CPUC adopts the utilities plan, net metering energy would also be dramatically scaled back. Net metering – a financial incentive given to participants in the state’s popular residential solar program – allows individuals, small businesses, churches and schools to sell back to the grid any excess energy generated by their solar panels.
PG&E and the other two utilities oppose having to pay customers for that surplus energy, since it cuts into investor profits. Their proposal would mean new fees for homes could top $90 a month and $3,400 for small businesses, schools and churches.
Instead, EWG, 350 Bay Area, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Clean Coalition are calling on state regulators to adopt a set of principles that will lower the cost of solar and expand access to the clean energy technology for all Californians, including working families and environmental justice communities.
In the October 26 letter to the CPUC, the groups outlined the principles:
- More affordable solar and storage, not less, for low- and moderate- income families, renters and environmental justice communities.
- No solar-specific fees.
- Fair value for exports and the right signals for a transition to more onsite solar plus storage.
- Agreements upheld with current solar customers.
EWG President and California resident Ken Cook, who submitted the letter on behalf of the organizations, urged regulators to use those principles as a roadmap when considering the fate of the state’s rooftop solar program.
“The only way to expand residential solar is by adopting policies that lower the costs, so millions of low- and moderate-income families across the state can have access to this clean, renewable source of electricity,” said Cook.
“PG&E and the other power companies trying to crush rooftop solar would like nothing more than to see the CPUC approve changes to the program that would punish current and future solar customers,” Cook said.
“That would be a disaster both for working families and for the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the battle against the climate crisis. The moment to unleash the full potential of the clean energy revolution in California is upon us, and it is imperative regulators take every opportunity to embrace it,” he added.
Opposition in California to the utilities’ proposal grows by the week, with more than 400 local, state and national public interest organizations in the Save California Solar coalition now dedicated to blocking the power companies’ profit grab plot.
The coalition is as diverse as the state, with a mix of advocates for clean energy, environmental justice and affordable housing, as well as labor unions and communities of faith, among others.
“With hundreds of groups, representing millions of Californians, the size of the coalition underscores the deep and wide support for the state’s rooftop solar program, and the strong opposition by environmentalists and other public interest advocates to the power companies’ plan to quash it,” Cook said.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.