While you had been targeted on elections, California proposed making it tougher so as to add extra solar power – San Francisco Chronicle


Despite the hurricanes that just lately devastated communities from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Tampa, Fla., householders with solar panels and batteries overwhelmingly reported no disruptions to their electrical energy. Meanwhile, in south San Jose, residents have suffered via power outages 10 instances up to now two months. 

While California residents and companies could also be main the nation towards a clear energy future, our state laws reinforce dependence on the identical antiquated and unreliable grid to ship that energy.

It’s costing ratepayers a fortune. 

Californians have watched their electrical energy payments rise at accelerating charges in latest a long time, regardless of renewable energy technology prices declining 70% over the prior decade.

Why? The price to distribute that electrical energy has ballooned. The ache will solely worsen within the coming years, as main capital investments in transmission infrastructure, together with long-overdue wildfire mitigation and security upkeep, are placed on the backs of ratepayers. 

A less expensive and extra dependable resolution exists: assist Californians generate and retailer energy regionally. “Distributed energy resources,” comparable to rooftop solar and residential battery storage, scale back pressure on the grid and enhance reliability for all customers.

Unfortunately, California’s monopoly utilities and their highly effective pals stand in the best way.

The California Public Utilities Commission simply proposed a Net Energy Metering coverage that may make it far more costly for householders to put in rooftop solar and retailer their electrical energy at home. While an enchancment over an earlier proposal that imposed new taxes on solar house owners, the most recent proposal will delay the common payback interval for householders’ investments in rooftop solar from six years to 9 years. This will result in fewer new solar installations on California rooftops — partly by lowering what householders earn for returning their extra electrical energy to the grid.

The proposed guidelines will enable investor-owned utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to promote electrical energy for roughly 4 instances the worth {that a} home-owner can promote the identical electrical energy.

Why do the massive utilities search to discourage Californians from going solar? Money. 

Blocking rooftop solar and residential battery programs prop up their costly, nineteenth century different: importing electrical energy over long-distance transmission traces. Regulators assure investor-owned utilities a 12% annual return on capital spending to put in and improve these transmission traces.

For instance, PG&E introduced a seemingly noble ambition to underground 10,000 miles of distribution and transmission traces, but it should price ratepayers $40 billion and entitle the utility’s traders to a different $50 billion in assured revenue thereafter. Operations and upkeep will extract tens of billions extra. The Public Utilities Commission admits that “every dollar (invested in transmission assets) costs ratepayers in excess of $3.50 over the life of a transmission asset.”

That explains why ratepayer advocates like The Utility Reform Network criticize PG&E’s undergrounding plan. And when you hope that PG&E’s undergrounding will save us from the following wildfire season, assume once more: PG&E will underground solely 175 miles this yr — none of which can contain high-risk transmission traces. At that charge, PG&E will full its undergrounding venture in about six a long time, if there are any forests left to save lots of. 

Utilities justify paying householders 25 cents on the greenback for his or her electrical energy by asserting — with the help of regulators — that present guidelines shift transmission and distribution prices to lower-income ratepayers that may’t afford solar panels. Yet a method to broaden solar entry can dramatically scale back prices to all shoppers, notably as native energy storage reduces our dependence on transmission infrastructure. Moreover, many different mechanisms can make sure the equity of utility prices — such because the 30% low cost that low-income households can obtain on their utility payments via the state’s CARE program.

The advantages of solar panels and storage have additionally change into far more accessible to low-income renters, notably with the assistance of state rebates and up to date federal laws for multifamily housing. If pricey transmission upgrades represent a obligatory public good, then the state ought to situation bonds and personal these belongings publicly moderately than enabling utility traders to counterpoint themselves whereas creating monetary limitations to rooftop solar adoption for the remainder of us.

The Public Utilities Commission might vote on the proposed determination as early as Dec. 15. Before then, let Gov. Gavin Newsom and the fee know that electrical energy laws ought to favor shoppers, not criminally convicted utilities and their shareholders. Local solar technology and battery microgrids present a less expensive and extra resilient supply of energy for many buildings and are a vital ingredient of the clear energy transition that California has lengthy dedicated to. As world leaders collect this week at COP27 local weather convention to forge a extra sustainable path for our planet, let’s not backtrack on California’s local weather progress and management.

Sam Liccardo is the mayor of San Jose. Barry Cinnamon is the CEO of Cinnamon Energy Systems. Craig Lewis is the manager director of the Clean Coalition.


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