With the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) set to make a critical decision about the future of rooftop solar in the state, more than 50,000 Californians have petitioned the PUC not to change the rules on existing solar customers.
As you may recall, legislation passed last year requires the PUC to consider new rules for net metering for customers who install systems after July 2017. (Net metering, of course, being the program that gives solar customers fair, full credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid for use nearby.) As part of that process, the PUC will first be determining how long customers who go solar before that 2017 cutoff can expect to receive net metering benefits. The PUC has a March 31 deadline to make a decision.
Utilities are up to their same old tricks to make solar a bad deal, pushing to change the rules on these customers in as little as 6 years. We say solar produces reliable power for 30 years or more, and solar customers should expect stable rules and predictable credit on their power bills to match. Changing the rules on solar customers mid-stream would drastically slow California’s solar momentum – and it’s downright unfair. We can’t let the utilities rewrite the rules for solar customers to protect their own bottom line.
David Levine, an East Bay resident who is in the process of going solar at his home, helped submit the heavy stack of 50,000 pro-solar petition names at today’s meeting of the PUC. “The state created policies to encourage me to install solar panels on my home, and now they are talking about changing the rules,” said Levine. “I’m proud that my solar system will help reduce the need for expensive power plants and utility infrastructure to power my neighbors’ homes and businesses. I invested my own money in those panels and expect the investment to result in financial savings.”
Levine was joined by Jade Wong, who has solar on the roof of her family's home in San Francisco, and Jim Happ, CEO of Labcon, a laboratory supplies and equipment manufacturer that has been headquartered in the North Bay since 1959. An 800-kilowatt (kW) solar energy system Labcon installed in 2011 meets almost one-third of the company’s power needs. “My business is one of thousands throughout California that have invested in solar in order to show clean energy leadership and to manage our utility bills,” said Happ. “We made the decision to go solar based on state rules that we expected to remain consistent for the lifetime of our solar energy systems. I hope we can count on the Commission to uphold those rules.”
Our coalition asked Californians to speak up for rooftop solar, and - once again - we are awed and inspired by the strong outpouring of public support. As today's 50,000 signatures show, Californians overwhelmingly want to build a healthier, more prosperous, more resilient solar-powered state. Thanks to net metering, rooftop solar is successfully harnessing innovation and private investment to do just that:
- 200,000 California energy customers have gone solar with net metering
- Those solar rooftops total 2 GW of clean, local power across the 3 major utility territories
- 2 out of every 3 new rooftop solar installations are now happening in low and middle income communities, delivering savings and economic opportunity where its needed most
- All that private investment puts 43,700 Californians to work statewide, a number that is growing fast
Rather than standing in the way of such progress, utilities should be finding ways to move with Californians into the 21st century. Our Commission has a proud history of supporting energy innovation and rooftop solar rights - we hope that they’ll do so again by upholding long-term net metering credit for existing solar customers.