Even as it commits to transition to 100% renewable energy, California may soon remove the benefits it has been providing to individuals who have rooftop solar on their homes. While the decision may appear contradictory, environmentalists disagree on whether the measures will help the state accomplish its climate goals while also benefiting low-income residents, or whether they will hinder both efforts.
They’re split on a proposal put forward by the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) last month that would reduce solar incentives for investor-owned utilities’ customers, impose a new monthly charge to connect solar clients to the grid, and generate a $600 million finance to help underserved communities get solar panels and batteries. The modifications, according to industry and some environmental groups, would put an end to California’s solar boom. Tesla has gone so far as to provide its staff with discussion pointers on how to respond to the plan. Other environmental and consumer advocates, on the other hand, are in favor of the proposal, arguing that California should do things differently to help low-income residents who haven’t reaped the benefits of rooftop solar to date.
California has the highest number of households with rooftop solar panels of any state. This is due in part to a long history of strong incentives for homeowners who install solar panels. If a person does not consume all of the solar energy collected by their panels, they can be able to sell it back to the grid. In accordance with the state’s “net metering” policy, they are permitted to sell power for the same retail rate at those they would purchase it. The program is designed to assist consumers in recouping their solar system installation costs. However, if the CPUC approves its current plan, the selling price will drop considerably to accurately represent the commission’s assessments of how much that energy is worth.
People in the solar sector are freaking out because of this. “People are virtually in tears,” Bernadette Del Chiaro, who is the executive director in charge of California Solar & Storage Association, says. “It’s like adult men who have built their entire lives around their business and their firm.” Her organization is one of roughly 600 that have formed a coalition to oppose the CPUC’s proposal.
Opponents of the initiative believe that if consumers don’t make as much money selling electricity back to the grid, they won’t be able to repay the thousands of dollars they spent on the system. While the CPUC believes solar consumers will be able to return their investment in ten years, others argue that the current proposal will significantly lengthen that time. In addition, the CPUC proposes to levy a new monthly “grid participation charge” of $8 per kW, which could amount to hundred dollars per year, to fund grid maintenance.