California regulators should revise a new rooftop solar plan to make solar more affordable for low-income communities, dozens of groups will tell the California Public Utilities Commission at its meeting Thursday. The commission’s plan drastically slashes the credit new solar users would get for sharing their extra solar energy with the grid.
More than 100 groups are urging the commission to delay implementation of the plan until it can resolve issues raised in an administrative appeal for rehearing filed in January by the Center for Biological Diversity, Protect Our Communities Foundation and the Environmental Working Group.
In addition to testifying at the meeting, which begins at 11 a.m., groups will submit a letter Thursday to Commission President Alice Reynolds urging a delay and revision of the net-metering plan regulators approved in December.
“There’s still time to fix this without going to court,” said Roger Lin, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Failing to consider rooftop solar’s benefits to environmental justice communities makes it harder for these families to afford it, and that’s illegal. Commissioners should be ensuring that everyone can benefit from local clean-energy generation, not putting up unnecessary roadblocks. Under this plan, the gap will widen between those who can afford solar and those who can’t.”
The new plan makes “solar less affordable for millions of working people, businesses, churches, schools, farms and community service institutions,” the groups’ letter said, at a time when “the climate emergency — and state law — requires that we get off fossil fuels and expand the use of local, clean and affordable energy generation.”
A new Center report explains the many benefits of rooftop solar and net metering and why for-profit utility companies are trying to kill the program.
The commission’s latest plan abandoned a hefty solar tax but decreased the compensation rooftop solar customers earn from sending electricity they don’t use back to the grid. This threatens the growing rooftop solar market by putting affordable and resilient renewable energy out of reach for working-class Californians, who would otherwise be able to afford rooftop solar by taking advantage of Inflation Reduction Act tax breaks.
In their letter, the groups said the commission ignored its own rules by failing to consider all the benefits of rooftop solar. Those benefits include a more reliable grid, significant reductions in greenhouse gas and other air pollution and local economic benefits, including new jobs.
Instead, regulators relied on avoided costs to determine the value of rooftop solar, which means new rooftop solar customers will receive a fraction of the value of extra power they generate and send back to the grid.
“For the sake of working communities and California’s clean energy goals, we urge the CPUC to carefully re-hear the issues raised in the appeal before implementing drastic changes that undermine California’s rooftop solar program,” the letter said.
News item from the Center for Biological Diversity