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New report unveils utilities’ playbook to stall rooftop solar in California

Utilities and special interest groups set up roadblocks to America’s most popular energy option

SACRAMENTO, CA -- California’s investor owned utilities are using a common playbook to stall the growth of solar, according to a new report released Thursday by Environment California Research & Policy Center and CALPIRG Education Fund. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SoCal Edison) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are targeting the state’s net metering program, which compensates solar owners for the excess electricity they sell back to the grid.  

“California has set landmark goals for a clean energy future, and that future relies on rooftop solar,” said Laura Deehan, Environment California Research & Policy Center state director. “The utility proposal to kill net metering would stunt the growth of solar in the Golden State, right when what we need most are strong policies supporting clean energy. The California Public Utilities Commission shouldn’t let them get away with it.” 

The report, Blocking Rooftop Solar, pulls the curtain back on the playbook promoted by a national network of pro-fossil fuel lobbying groups and adopted by many utilities. These groups are campaigning to stop the growth of rooftop solar in California and Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina and at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This years-long, multi-state effort involves coordinating strategies, tactics and funding for anti-solar campaigns. Specifically, their plan includes:

  • Restrictions on or the elimination of net metering programs. 
  • New fixed charges on solar power system owners.

From coast to coast, special interests create “astro-turf” front groups with neutral names like the Consumer Energy Alliance, in an attempt to influence decision makers to support anti-solar legislation or regulations.

“Rooftop solar is cheaper, more efficient and within the reach of more Californians than ever before,” said Jenn Engstrom, CALPIRG Education Fund state director. “Solar power on the roofs of our homes, schools and businesses provides important value for consumers across California. We deserve to reap the benefits of this clean renewable technology, but until we pull the curtain back on efforts to undermine it and create a clear path for its success, communities will not get what they want -- and deserve.” 

The battle for the future of rooftop solar is at particularly high pitch in California. PG&E, SoCal Edison and SDG&E are using the playbook described in this report to push for drastic changes to net metering in California. Earlier this year, the utilities moved to create the nation’s highest fixed charges for solar customers while simultaneously slashing the net metering payments that solar customers receive. 

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on the future of the state’s net metering program by the end of 2021. 

“Rooftop solar is key to our clean energy future,” said Bronte Payne, Go Solar campaign director with Environment California Research & Policy Center. “We can’t let shortsightedness keep us tied to the energy sources of the past. Policymakers need to recognize and resist any attempts to undermine rooftop solar, and put in place strong policies to encourage its growth.” 

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