Fifty-five environmental groups sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), calling on them to reject net metering changes “that will set back California’s clean energy and environmental goals.”

Net metering is a state policy that defines how solar users send energy back to the electric grid. In net metering agreements, solar customers can send the surplus energy generated by their system back to the grid and offset their electrical costs.

As noted in the letter, after Newsom’s recent executive order, California has a goal to protect 30% of the state’s lands and water by 2030.

“An important part of this effort includes ensuring that the right mix of energy projects are moving forward in the right locations, including maintaining a robust and equitable rooftop solar market,” the letter states. “The less rooftop solar built in California will mean that even more land will need to go into utility-scale renewable energy production. Therefore, a robust rooftop solar market is critical to meeting our clean energy and land and biodiversity conservation goals.”

A recent study by Environment California found that building 28.5 GW of rooftop solar, rather than utility-scale solar, would enable California to maintain existing land uses on more than 148,000 acres of land, an area about half the size of Los Angeles.

“Clean energy projects will require more land, but it’s critical for the state to ensure a robust rooftop solar market to avoid destroying important habitat with unnecessary amounts of utility-scale renewable energy,” said Pamela Flick, California program director with Defenders of Wildlife. “We urge Gov. Newsom and the CPUC to maintain California’s rooftop market as an important part of our state’s efforts to protect biodiversity and promote smart climate solutions.”

The letter points to rooftop solar projects as a way to avoid habitat disruption, quicker installation than large-scale solar projects and the value of individual cost savings for customers.

“The California Desert is part of the largest wild landscape in the lower 48. Its unparalleled ecological wealth is threatened by climate change, but it’s also in peril due to our response to climate change,” said Chris Clarke, associate director of the California Desert Program with the National Parks Conservation Association. “More than 400 square miles of rooftop in California are suitable for generating solar power. That’s an area the size of Los Angeles that could be developed for solar with almost no environmental impact, but with immense benefits for California families. It’s also more than 400 square miles of desert that doesn’t need to be bulldozed for solar. We urge Gov. Newsom and the CPUC to protect California’s climate, and the interests of its families, instead of propping up the utilities’ obsolete business plans.”

The letter from conservation groups also notes how rooftop solar reduces the need for grid investments like new transmission lines.

News item from Save California Solar

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