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Rooftop Solar Backers Voice Concerns about CPUC Vote


Wednesday, June 23, 2021   

SAN FRANCISCO - Groups working to battle climate change warn that rooftop solar and energy-efficiency programs could be in big trouble if the California Public Utilities Commission votes Thursday to revamp the way the agency evaluates them.

The groups have claimed that
changes to what's known as the "Avoided Costs Calculator" will cut the value of rooftop solar in half, and worry this could lead to a cut in reimbursements - or extra fees - for families who install rooftop solar panels.

Laura Neish, executive director of the nonprofit 350 Bay Area, said she thinks this could be "the beginning of the end" for small-scale solar.

"When homeowners are not adequately compensated," she said, "they will stop putting solar on their roofs, which will diminish the amount of relatively cheap distributed energy, and eliminate the benefits of that from the grid of the future."

The Avoided Costs Calculator is used to evaluate the cost and benefits of any given program. The commission normally only allows big changes to the ACC in even-numbered years. This proposal is on the consent calendar with no debate - and opponents want it pulled from the agenda. Last week, the state's three biggest utilities sent a letter to the commission, arguing the proposed changes are minor and warranted, and that they'd allow for more accurate projections.

Neish said she believes the utilities want these changes because they favor large-scale solar projects that bring a guaranteed rate of return.

"They are doing what they are being incented to do," she said, "and they are fighting against these much smaller distributed projects because they do not benefit from it directly."

Laura Deehan, state director of Environment California, a group that just published a report on rooftop solar, argued that the state needs to protect net-metering programs, not put up roadblocks.

"We're living with the consequences of global warming right now," she said, "and so, getting to a 100% renewable-energy future has to happen as fast as possible, and rooftop solar and energy efficiency are some of the best tools we have to solve this problem."

This fall, the CPUC is set to consider a proposal to charge people who have solar on their rooftops an extra $50 to $100 a month, ostensibly to help pay for the power lines that criss-cross the state. Opponents of that plan are gathering signatures on petitions at

Disclosure: 350 Bay Area contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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