CALIFORNIA, March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- California's oldest and largest clean energy business group, the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA), is going up against the state's three investor-owned utilities over the future of California's rooftop solar market. The battle is unfolding at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in a regulatory decision that will make or break California's continued leadership in encouraging consumer solar at homes, apartments, schools and farms. Proposals for changes to net energy metering (NEM) were submitted today.
"California is a solar state, but the utilities want to own the sun and keep it out of the hands of everyday people," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, CALSSA Executive Director. "Their need to increase profits cuts against the consumer's right to choose where and how to generate clean, reliable energy where we live, work, and play."
CALSSA's proposal for how the state's foundational net metering program should evolve over the next ten years seeks to put rooftop solar in the hands of millions more consumers, including an increasing number of low-income ratepayers, while building a million solar-charged batteries. The industry association, which took on the utilities in 2016 during the last regulatory challenge to NEM, is urging the commission to prioritize consumer choice, energy reliability, grid costs, and the protection of small businesses which make up more than two-thirds of California's solar market.
"California's solar industry is dominated by small businesses that work to bring clean, reliable and affordable energy to middle- and working-class consumers from Clovis to Chula Vista," said Del Chiaro. "Our 600-member strong organization is made up of hundreds of women-owned, minority-owned, employee-owned, and family-owned businesses that make up the backbone of California's solar industry.
The state's investor-owned utilities, in contrast, are some of the largest shareholder corporations in the state posting $20 billion in profits since 2012. The largest source of profits are utility investments in high-voltage transmission lines that carry electrons from power plants located hundreds of miles away from where people use energy. In a recent En Banc at the CPUC, it was revealed that the utilities have charged ratepayers $20 billion in transmission projects, nearly half of which were "self-approved" and that this year's $4 billion transmission bill to ratepayers is a 38% increase over 2016.
"Rooftop solar helps cut down on the need to build these expensive transmission lines which is why the utilities are always after us," said Del Chiaro. "Solar roofs save everyone money by reducing the need to pave over the desert with power plants and build the wires to carry those electrons to our homes and businesses. Those savings work well for ratepayers but cut against utility profit."
CALSSA is part of a growing coalition of consumer, environmental, and community groups standing up for consumer choice and local solar energy. The group has a website www.SaveCaliforniaSolar.org. Earlier, today CALSSA and the Solar Rights Alliance put out a public opinion poll showing utility company efforts to roll back net metering are highly unpopular among California voters. Instead, the poll showed strong support for net metering across parties, and a bipartisan desire for California leaders to do more to encourage the growth of rooftop solar power.
California is the nucleus for Distributed Energy Resources (DER) and DER-related policies. It has grown not only world-class DER companies and global leaders that continue to be policy ambassadors to states across the country, and countries around the world, but also hundreds of small and mid-sized "Main Street" solar and solar-related businesses. The modifications to NEM adopted in this proceeding will affect these smaller companies the most, as well as the 74,000 Californians currently working in the solar industry. The following quotes represent the views of diverse solar and storage business leaders from all parts of California:
"The solar industry is made up of small businesses who work hard to bring reliable, affordable energy to everyday consumers. The utilities' anti-NEM proposals will kill our businesses and the quality jobs we create."
– Jose Luis Contreras, Solare Energy, San Diego, CA
"Rooftop solar delivers clean, reliable power for millions of people but the utilities want to slow us down, just as California's solar energy industry is taking off."
– Deep Patel, Gigawatt Inc., Orange County, CA
"As an employee-owned solar business coming out of Covid-19, we are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and big utility companies want to recover their monopolistic hold on energy production. Net energy metering is absolutely crucial to growing local jobs."
– Vincent Battaglia, Renova Energy, Palm Desert, CA
"My county has the highest poverty rate in the state. For my customers, the ability to lower their monthly electric bills through a NEM credit provides crucial help to working families.
– Jack Ramsey, Altsys Solar Inc., Tulare, CA
"The solar industry has a long tail of small businesses focused on empowering their customers and communities to create their own clean energy. When NEM policies have been reduced or eliminated the effects on the solar industry, and its customers, have been swift and negative."
– Micah Breeden, Allterra Solar, Santa Cruz, CA
"I can't compete with PG&E's PR machine. I get up every morning and run the best solar company I can. I just hope our politicians see through the utility smokescreen and pay attention to those of us on the ground building solar energy for real people."
– Sheryl Lane, Earth Electric, Campbell, CA
"It's inconceivable that we are considering another economic shift from homeowners and small businesses to a twice bankrupt and criminal utility who already has a guaranteed 10% rate of return — and who just raised electric rates by 11% this year."
– Barry Cinnamon, Cinnamon Energy Solutions, Campbell, CA
"Utilities claim rooftop solar takes money from those least able to pay and should be stopped. Utilities should work with, not against, the hundreds of solar businesses across California to get solar energy and batteries to more people. That will create more local jobs and build more wealth and resiliency in our communities."
– Jeanine Cotter, Luminalt Energy, San Francisco, CA
"We build rooftop solar and storage systems for the people of Sonoma County hit hard by PG&E's wildfires and high rates. Both of my sons have also started their own local solar company. PG&E's proposal to gut net metering will hurt my whole family and is just wrong."
– Jeff Mathias, Synergy Solar & Electrical Systems, Sebastopol, CA
"Amidst blackouts and wildfires, PG&E has some nerve to propose that California turn the lights out on rooftop solar, destroying tens of thousands of clean energy jobs."
– Ed Murray, Aztec Solar, Rancho Cordova, CA
The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has advanced the common interest of the solar and storage industry for over 40 years, making California the most robust market in the U.S. The association is the state's largest clean energy business group with over 600 member companies, primarily small businesses based in communities throughout the state, representing an array of businesses that manufacture, design, install, finance and provide other resources to the growing local solar and storage market in California. Learn more at www.calssa.org
SOURCE California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA)