Rallies to save rooftop solar draw significant support

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Environmentalists and solar workers take to the streets in San Francisco and Los Angeles to urge state to revisit proposed solar incentive rules

Environment California

LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of people took to the streets in Los Angeles and San Francisco on Thursday to call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to keep rooftop solar growing in the state. Ralliers are calling on Gov. Newsom to direct the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to revisit a preliminary decision made in December that drastically cuts the state’s solar energy incentive program. Environment America’s President Wendy Wendlandt spoke at the event in Los Angeles and Environment California State Director Laura Deehan spoke at the San Francisco rally. 

“We’re in the middle of a climate emergency,” Wendlandt said. “The last thing we need to do is make rooftop solar more expensive.”

Under CPUC’s preliminary proposal, California solar customers would be charged a new monthly fixed rate of $57 on average. That total would be the highest solar penalty in the country. In other states where this sort of tax was imposed, the rate of new solar installations plummeted. For example, when Nevada instituted a similar penalty, the solar adoption rate dropped by 47%. When a better policy was reinstated, the rate came back up.

California regulators have calculated that to get to 100% clean energy as required by state law, California needs at least 28 gigawatts (GW) of customer-sited solar by 2045. That’s nearly three times as much rooftop solar as the state has installed as of 2022. 

“Rooftop solar panels are California’s quickest route to cleaner air, healthier communities and less climate pollution,” Deehan said. “We need as many as we can get. More than ever, we need Gov. Newsom to stand up and make sure that California continues our shining leadership as a rooftop solar state.”

Environment California Research & Policy Center’s report Rooftop Solar at Risk, which was released earlier this year and shared with CPUC commissioners, shows that sharply reducing net metering payments and imposing high, solar-only fixed charges could slow the growth of rooftop solar installations – and, in the most extreme cases, cause installations to plummet. 

The commission can hold a final vote on the future of net metering as soon as Jan. 27, following a 30-day public comment period on the proposed decision. If this proposal is adopted, changes would go into effect this spring.