CA Utilities Mount A Last-Ditch Effort to Crush Consumer Solar

We saw this coming, but it still gets us hot under the collar. With the CPUC poised to uphold net metering and keep solar accessible to Californians, the state’s three big utilities are pulling out all the stops to try to weaken the final decision at the last minute. Now more than ever, we need the Commission to stand for the people of California rather than the three powerful utilities—PG&E, SCE and SDG&E—and their armies of lobbyists and backwards ways. Here’s the latest on the utilities’ last-ditch, inside-outside campaign to stop solar progress, and what you can do to help us fight back.

barrels of money

Inside the halls of the Commission, the utilities have launched a whole new lobbying effort to try to defeat net metering. After the Commission issued a good proposed decision that would keep full retail credit and provide a balanced path forward for solar in our state, the utilities developed a last-minute proposal that would set a much lower and fixed price for the extra clean energy that a solar customer sends back to the grid for others to use. Not only is it against the Commission’s procedural rules to push a new policy after a proposed decision has been published, but the utilities don’t provide any data even attempting to show that their proposed rate is fair compensation for the benefits of solar generation or that it will keep rooftop solar growing sustainably in California. This effort is all kinds of wrong, but that hasn’t stopped the utilities from throwing the kitchen sink at it.

And they aren’t stopping there. SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, is ramping up an an astroturf campaign called “Fix My Energy Bill” they created back in 2013, to try to convince the CPUC that Californians oppose net metering. The website of this cynical effort doesn’t note anywhere that utility dollars are behind it. Last week, the front group ran a big ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune touting unproven and misleading claims about solar’s costs. Who do the utilities think they’re kidding with this stuff? Rooftop solar is private investment in local power generation that helps manage costs for all, but the utility is taking a page from Big Tobacco by using bad information to raise enough doubt to do damage.

The fact is that Californians from all over the state have made it clear that they overwhelmingly want solar progress and that the utilities’ anti-solar proposals are on the wrong side of history. Solar supporters delivered more than 150,000 petitions in support of net metering, a historic level of public engagement at the California PUC. More than a thousand Californians rallied outside utility headquarters last fall in opposition to the utilities’ damaging rooftop solar proposals. And over 50 local government officials, 16 organizations representing social justice issues and communities of color as well as numerous state education and teachers’ associations, farmers and agricultural businesses, faith leaders, and Native American tribal communities have formally urged the CPUC to uphold the net metering program and continue to expand solar access. For many of these groups, this was the first time they engaged in a PUC process, a further indication of just how important this issue is to Californians of all walks of life.

It’s tempting to ignore these utility temper tantrums and falsehoods—but it’s never smart to underestimate powerful special interests’ ability to force policy changes at the last minute. The Commission plans to vote on the future of net metering next Thursday, January 28. That’s why we need more people power for solar power right now. Here are two things you can do:

  • Send an email to the Commission showing that the utilities’ claims don’t represent the interests of real Californians, people like you who WANT more solar.
  • If you live in the Bay Area, come to the CPUC (505 Van Ness Ave in San Francisco) at 9 am on January 28 to rally for rooftop solar and pack the Commission auditorium with solar supporters one last time.

Together, we can do this!

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