Social Justice Groups Urge California PUC to Extend Net Metering

Today, a group of 16 leaders representing California’s communities of color sent a powerful message to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), urging Commissioners in a letter to “continue California’s current net energy metering program beyond 2017 and to expand access to clean energy to more low-income ratepayers.”

solar proponents and champions at the state house

The letter, submitted by San Francisco’s Brightline Defense Project, rightly noted that for generations, communities of color have disproportionately borne the effects of an energy system dominated by fossil fuels. It concludes, “A cleaner, more equitable approach to energy will be achieved by continuing to find ways to expand clean energy access, not by weakening effective and successful programs like net metering simply because they are opposed by the utilities. We urge the Commission to continue making net metering available to customers who go solar after the current cap is reached and to explore innovative additional approaches — including virtual net metering, community shared renewables, new tariffs and workforce development programs — to help more low-income families and communities of color participate in and benefit from California’s growing clean energy economy.”

Powerful words from some powerful leaders of the social justice community, including:, Dr. Luis Pacheco, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Environmental Health Coalition, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Green for All, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, The Greenlining Institute, Voces Verdes, Todos Unidos, California Lulac Institute, William C. Velasquez Institute, Communities for a Better Environment, and the Mexican American Political Association.

We are excited and inspired to have these important community voices join the campaign urging the CPUC to extend net metering and build on its success. Their leadership in the Golden State combines with the work of groups like the Climate Justice Alliance that are helping give disadvantaged communities a voice in the important net metering and clean energy discussions happening all around the country.

What’s happening in California?

Traditional utilities like PG&E, SCE & SDG&E see customers producing their own energy from affordable solar as a threat to their old way of doing business. California is just one state out of more than a dozen where utilities are taking aim at net metering as a way to stall customer solar adoption.

The California PUC must determine the rules for the future of the state’s net metering program by the end of 2015. Utilities are using the process to try to undermine net metering and make solar a bad deal for Californians.

Why does this matter for communities of color?

Solar community benefits: Individual solar investment reduces the need for expensive, polluting utility power plants and infrastructure – and that means real savings and public health benefits for all California energy customers. This pollution reduction is especially important for communities of color, who have disproportionately borne the public health burden of fossil power for far too long. As was highlighted in the NAACP’s Just Energy Policies Report, net metering is a critical tool for driving the transition to a more just energy system.

Solar savings: Affordable solar energy is putting Californians in charge of their electricity bills like never before, and those solar customers are increasingly representing low- and middle-income neighborhoods. Programs like the statewide MASH and SASH and local options like GoSolarSF further focus on ensuring that low-income families are able to go solar and save on their electricity bills thanks to net metering. As these community leaders said in today’s letter, we should be working to expand solar access – not further limiting it by doing away with programs like net metering.

Solar jobs: Solar keeps energy dollars invested in our communities, creating good local jobs across a spectrum of education levels. The Solar Foundation Solar Job Census found that the solar industry employed 54,690 people in California in 2014, a number that grew ten times faster than the general economy. Workforce development initiatives like the industry-led GRID Alternatives partnership with SunEdison and San Francisco’s municipal GoSolarSF help ensure that those jobs are accessible to disadvantaged San Franciscans. Data shows that workers of color represent the largest populations served by the GoSolarSF Workforce Development program with 40% African American and 22% Latino job placements.

We are proud to stand with these leaders of the social and environmental justice community in urging the PUC to build on our solar success by defending net metering and continuing to explore new ways to help connect more Californians with the safer, healthier, affordable solar power they want.

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