Oct 15 Update: This article has been edited to remove paragraphs that do not line up with statements under oath.
The California Public Utilities Commission is currently in hearings over the future of net energy metering in California — Net Metering 2.0 for the sake of brevity. As you probably know if you’re reading this, net metering is a policy in 44 states that gives rooftop solar customers credit for the energy they provide to the grid.
Solar advocates love it because it makes rooftop solar a more attractive option to the average consumer and moves us toward a more healthy and sustainable environment. Utility executives and their millionaire lobbyists hate it because it keeps them from maximizing their profits. Of course, they don’t use that excuse publicly, instead blaming solar customers for ramping up rates for non-solar consumers. This argument is not only untrue, but also a losing strategy. States are expanding net metering across the country. South Carolina recently implemented it for the first time. Now Mississippi is considering it.
With the CPUC re-examining net metering in our state, big utilities have turned up the heat, and they appear to have hoodwinked a consumer advocacy group with a history of defending the policy into proposing solar charges.
The Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA) is appointed by the Governor with a mission to “obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels.” As part of this charge, ORA “also advocates for customer and environmental protections.” In previous debates over net metering, ORA has been quite vocal in their support of the policy.
Now, they seem to have turned over a new leaf, falling (mostly) in line with proposals from PG&E, Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) that would impose new fees on rooftop solar customers far higher than a proposal by our old friends at Arizona Public Service that was recently withdrawn due to public backlash. ORA’s proposals don’t make a whole lot of sense given that their existence is inextricably tied to consumer rights.
This is very unfortunate. ORA is supposed to step up to defend ratepayers. Instead, they’re siding with millionaires. If Governor Brown is serious about taking bold steps on climate change, his administrative offices should reflect that.
Image Credit: LBL.gov
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