California Solar Energy — Attacks on Solar Net Metering, Rooftop Solar’s Many Benefits

There have been attacks on solar net metering for a decade or more, due to the fact that net metering shifts revenue and profit from utilities to individual homeowners. An extreme attack on California solar net metering arose in the past year, but then recently stalled and got punted indefinitely after a lot of backlash. We’re not yet sure how it will resurface. Listen in as solar industry expert Alex Williams of Solar Energy Partners talks to CleanTechnica’s Zach Shahan about these topics.

Note that it is the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that is tasked with managing regulations such as solar net metering, and Alex shared that all 4 of the current CPUC commissioners and current CPUC president were appointed by Gavin Newsom in the past couple of years . In simple terms, some pro-utility bad apples seem to have finagled their way onto the board and have become a serious threat to rooftop solar power in California, and thus the country (California dominates the rooftop solar industry). Calling it a bit of “overreach,” Alex said, “It’s kind of like they saw a crack in the door and tried to drive a truck through it.”

I asked Alex for more details on how the proposals from earlier in the year would impact current rooftop solar panel owners as well as people who are looking to go solar. He pointed out that there were two basic topics: 1) how much the utility charges to be connected to the grid, and 2) how long they will honor net metering rules. One egregious part of the proposal was to cut the term of existing net metering customers from 25 years to 20 years — despite the fact that people went solar expecting 25 years of net metering payments based on the laws in place at the time they went solar.

Alex and I also talked about the various benefits of rooftop solar power for cutting down on utility infrastructure costs, cutting down on efficiency losses, reducing air pollution and thus health costs, adding grid resiliency and grid security, and more.

One thing that surprised me quite a bit, though, was how directly Alex pushed back against the widespread utility claim that rooftop solar benefits the super rich at the cost of the rest of society. He said that wasn’t the case at all from his experience in the industry. “I’ve always found that that’s a very interesting argument to try and make because, being in the industry, I mean — 75 maybe 80 percent of our customers would be considered lower-middle [income] or even lower-income. And so, for me it’s always been like: the rich people aren’t the ones getting solar. We have literally thousands of installs a year happening and a high, high, high percentage of them are not what people would consider wealthy.” He added that everyone in the industry he’s discussed this with has said the same thing.

We also talked a bit about the role of Gavin Newsom in helping the rooftop solar energy industry fight against anti–rooftop solar regulations.

Aside from the net metering battle, we talked at length about Solar Energy Partners, which now has more than 1,000 solar energy consultants/reps on its solarizing team. He talked about their extensive on training — “train first, train second, train third” as well as their approach to broader solar education and installation. Perhaps the most interesting at all, we talked about the culture of Solar Energy Partners and the founders’ deepest aims.

For more, check out the whole podcast interview via the embedded SoundCloud player above or on your favorite podcast network: Anchor, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket, Podbean, Radio Public, SoundCloud, Spotify, or Stitcher.

You can also learn more on the Solar Energy Partners website.


 

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