Hundreds of solar supporters, including consumers, affordable housing advocates, faith leaders, environmentalists, conservationists and climate activists joined together for a rally at the California State Capitol building to deliver more than 120,000 public comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Gov. Gavin Newsom, calling on them to save rooftop solar and stop investor-owned utility proposals to make solar unaffordable in the state.
In addition to the public comment delivery, solar supporters put up a 30-ft inflatable “utility profit grab man” on the Capitol steps and staged a “human billboard” message covering the Capitol lawn that says “Gov: 100,000+ Say Stop Utility Profit Grab. Save California Solar.”
“This is where the rubber hits the road on blackouts, rising electricity bills and air pollution,” said Solar Rights Alliance Director Dave Rosenfeld, “The correct path is to help millions more working- and middle-class people get solar so we can keep up our progress and reject the utility profit grab that threatens to take us backwards.”
The groundswell of public support for solar comes ahead of an expected proposed decision in the coming days by the CPUC on the future of net metering. Net metering is the state policy that makes rooftop solar more affordable for consumers of all types by compensating them for the excess energy they produce and share with their neighbors and protecting them from discriminatory fees. Rooftop solar is growing fastest in working- and middle-class neighborhoods because of successful policies like net energy metering.
“The best way to ensure a cleaner and more affordable energy future for our communities is by generating our energy from solar panels on our homes, churches, small businesses, and schools,” said Green the Church Executive Director Pastor Ambrose Carroll, “We have a moral responsibility to future generations to expand rooftop solar access by preserving net metering for working families, not adding fees that only profit the big utilities.”
PG&E and other big utilities want to change the rules in their favor in order to eliminate a growing competitor, keep consumers stuck in utility monopolies, and maintain the need for costly and often dangerous transmission lines that are a key driver of utility profits and ratepayer costs. Proposals submitted by the utilities and other solar opponents would drastically reduce the credit solar consumers receive and add expensive monthly solar penalty fees to their energy bills.
“This is really a debate between energy democracy vs. energy monopoly. The big utilities want to protect their control over energy delivery to protect their billions in profit,” said Environmental Justice Coalition for Water Executive Director Esperanza Vielma, “The environmental justice community wants energy equity where people are free to generate and distribute energy their own energy in ways that are cleaner and more affordable.”
If utilities get their way, solar will become unaffordable for most consumers, costing thousands of solar jobs, making California more vulnerable to fires and blackouts, and derailing California’s clean energy progress needed to fight climate change. By making the transition to clean energy slower and more expensive, the utility profit grab would cost the state tens of billions over time and each ratepayer $295 a year.
“California risks losing more than 50,000 jobs and 1,500 small businesses if the state turns the lights out on rooftop solar,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association. “Governor Newsom and the CPUC should not reward big utilities like PG&E while at the same time killing jobs, hurting regular consumers, and derailing California’s climate change efforts. We need to keep California a solar state.”
To date, more than 600 diverse organizations endorsed protecting net metering and championing rooftop solar, making the Save California Solar coalition one of the largest in the state’s history of clean energy battles underscoring the inflection point in California as the state struggles to maintain its leadership against a still powerful fossil fuel lobby.
News item from Save California Solar