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Friday, May 20, 2022

California Rooftop Solar War Intensifies as Regulators Rescind Reform Proposal

Regulators want to destroy rooftop solar panels to protect utility companies’ obscene profits, one side claims.

Boxes of petitions against the proposed reforms were displayed before being delivered to the governor’s office in December. (AP Photo/Rich Pedronchelli)

The other side contends that rooftop solar owners are spinning vans to protect their profits – the extra market value they pay for electricity exports to their neighbors – and to avoid paying their fair share of electricity grid maintenance.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates electricity rates, has been working for years to seriously overhaul how rooftop solar works in the Golden State. His proposal to make the system fairer for all was made public last month and is scheduled for final approval on January 27th. But after thousands of angry comments from owners of rooftop solar panels and a nasty look from the governor, the proposal is officially closed. the PUC agenda on Thursday.

It is not clear when he will return and in what form.

“We have two new commissioners, one of whom has yet to take office,” CPUC spokeswoman Terry Prosper said in an email. “Comments from the parties have just been received on a proposed decision on this extremely important political issue. We will provide more information once the schedule is determined.”

The new commissioners who will fight this bear will be John Reynolds and Alice Reynolds. Both were appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom late last year, after the proposed decision was made public by the CPUC.

John Reynolds is an attorney who has held several positions with the CPUC. Alice Reynolds, unrelated to the case, is also an attorney and served as Newsom’s senior energy advisor. She is the new president of the CPUC.

California Rooftop Solar War Intensifies as Regulators Rescind Reform Proposal
Solar panels in Rancho Mission Viejo. (File: photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Neither responded to requests for comment, but the boss’s orders are clear. “I will say this about the plan: we still have some work to do,” Newsom said on Jan. 11. Do I think changes need to be made? Yes.”

The fight could become even more intense: those who want to defend the old rules have submitted an initiative to vote to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Two versions of the Sunshine Bill of Rights Act of 2022 were filed Jan. 14 by Los Angeles attorney Philip R. Recht of Mayer Brown. These days, it costs about $2 million to put an initiative to a vote. Recht did not respond to requests for comment about who is funding the effort.

The pain is real

There are about 13.2 million households in California, according to the US Census Bureau. The vast majority of them – about 11.9 million – do not have solar. About 1.3 million of them.

The pain is real on all sides.

Under the proposal, rooftop solar owners like Irvine’s Raj Pandey would see the credit they receive for putting electricity on the grid for neighbors’ use plummeted from 40 cents per kilowatt hour to around 5 cents – according to the actual cost of solar energy produced per day, the utilities say.

Solar panel owners would also see their monthly grid connection and maintenance fees skyrocket to an average of $57 from about $10.

Homeowners who have invested tens of thousands of dollars in solar systems under the old assumptions have said it will greatly increase the time it takes to pay back their energy savings, and some have said they will never pay off. This is despite a provision that, under the old rules, would have made some solar panel owners grandfathers. And manufacturers of solar systems fear a sharp drop in demand.

Meanwhile, homeowners without solar are subsidizing those with solar, officials said.

Non-solar households are paying between $115 and $245 a year more to subsidize their solar neighbors, and if nothing changes, that subsidy will rise to $385 to $550 a year by 2030, according to a joint statement. three major California utilities.

This is tantamount to robbing the poor to pay the rich, and that is what the proposal was trying to solve, supporters argue.

Solomon says

California Rooftop Solar War Intensifies as Regulators Rescind Reform ProposalPUC’s public defender, a quasi-independent employee of the company, Solomon the Wise, tasked with protecting consumers, said that justice requires change.

“California taxpayers are currently paying too much for rooftop (solar) generation incentives,” the statement said.

The cost of these incentives “unfairly raises electricity tariffs for those consumers who do not have generation (solar on the rooftop). These non-participating clients are paying unreasonable amounts of money… to subsidize clients who can afford to have (them) installed.”

Instead, he favored a new tariff system that would promote sustainable solar growth and benefit all customers equitably.

The ultimate goal is a future where rooftop solar is combined with storage batteries so that the electricity generated during the day can be used after dark. This would reduce or eliminate the need to run power plants running on dirtier fossil fuels at night.

Clash of the Titans

Those who want to protect the current system are portraying those who want change as pawns in a utility giant scheme to destroy competition from rooftop solar.

“We urge the Governor to use his podium to push regulators to start fresh and not take any action to limit rooftop solar until they fully understand the real reason why working class families and communities are paying so much for electricity, and how can they do it. be at the forefront of the solar and rooftop storage revolution,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

California Rooftop Solar War Intensifies as Regulators Rescind Reform Proposal
Solar Powered Homes in Rancho Mission Viejo. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“This is clearly intended to increase profits for utilities and stifle the only competition they face right now, competition from Californians who are investing in solar panels and, increasingly, batteries in homes, businesses, schools and communities.”

Those who want change portray those who cling to the current system as indebted to the greed of the solar panel manufacturing and installation industry.

“It is not right that non-solar consumers, many of whom live in disadvantaged areas or are renters without the option to install solar, are paying for subsidies that are mostly received by wealthier solar property owners,” said Kathy Fairbanks, representative of Affordable. Clean energy for all, in a statement.

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