New report highlights the environmental benefits of rooftop solar in California

Media Contacts
Bronte Payne

Josh Chetwynd

Despite rooftop solar’s upsides, California Public Utilities Commission is considering drastic cuts to net energy metering

Environment California Research & Policy Center

SACRAMENTO – Installing more rooftop solar in California will increase essential renewable electricity generation while protecting the state’s open spaces. It will also help make communities more resilient to global warming-related disruptions to the power grid. These findings are outlined in a new report released Thursday by Environment California Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group. 

“Rooftop solar is among the best and fastest ways to generate clean power,” said Laura Deehan, state director at Environment California Research & Policy Center. “Panels are quick to install, they don’t use up precious open space and they start working almost the minute they’re on the roof. That’s the kind of response to climate change that really makes sense. California should be doing everything in its power to  accelerate rooftop solar, not slow it down.”

Under its current goals, California must dramatically expand rooftop solar. The state has committed to reaching 100 percent clean electricity by 2045. To reach that total, officials assume that the state will add 28.5 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar, nearly quadrupling its current rooftop solar capacity (in addition to adding even larger amounts of utility-scale solar). 

While that growth may seem daunting, Environment California Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group’s new report, The Environmental Case for Rooftop Solar Energy, highlights why it’s so necessary in ensuring California meet its climate commitments while helping to protect agricultural land, fragile habitats and natural areas:

  • Rooftop solar reduces renewable energy’s land burden by cutting the total amount of utility-scale solar needed in the state. Building 28.5 GW of rooftop solar would enable California to maintain existing land uses on more than 148,000 acres of land – an area about half the size of the City of Los Angeles – compared with replacing that capacity with utility-scale solar.

  • On average, new rooftop solar projects are completed within three months, replacing fossil fuel generation quickly. Immediate reductions in climate pollution are essential if California and the world are to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

  • Rooftop solar is a great tool for water conservation, since it requires no water for installation or cooling.

  • Installing solar energy paired with energy storage on homes, businesses, schools, community centers and farms will improve the resilience of California communities to climate-related disruptions to the electricity grid by providing power during outages.

Despite the powerful reasons for rooftop solar, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is currently considering changes to the state’s net metering program, which compensates solar owners for the excess electricity that they sell back to the grid. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SoCal Edison) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are proposing to impose the nation’s highest fixed charges for solar customers, while simultaneously slashing the net metering payments that solar customers receive. 

“The utility proposal to wipe out net metering would stall the growth of rooftop solar in the Golden State,” said Deehan. “Gov. Gavin Newsom must stand up to the state’s investor-owned utilities to defend the future of rooftop solar for all its environmental benefits. We don’t have time to mess around.”