Five Reasons Why Governor Newsom Should Stand Up to the Utility Attack on Solar Posted on Nov 10, 2021

The following is a guest post from Cinnamon Energy Systems:

The battle between rich monopoly utilities and the “behind the meter” solar industry is coming to a head right now in California. The three biggest utilities are lobbying the Public Utilities Commission to add a $65-90 monthly solar penalty fee to their energy bills and reduce by 45% the net metering credit solar consumers receive for selling the excess energy they produce. Whether you live in California or not, If the utilities get their way, there will be a devastating impact on the solar and storage industry throughout the U.S.


New solar and battery customers – both residential and commercial – would see their paybacks go from 3 - 8 years to over 20 years. Does it make economic sense to slam the brakes on rooftop solar and storage, and make it impossible for California to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2045? Tell Governor Newsom: stand up to the utility attack on solar

PG&E recently announced plans to bury 10,000 miles of overhead transmission lines over a ten-year period. Although new transmission lines should be installed underground, burying existing power lines is basically a coverup for PG&E’s failure to properly operate and maintain these transmission lines in the first place -- a greedy utility profit grab, pure and simple. Let’s run the numbers. PG&E estimates that it will cost $4 million per mile to bury these transmission lines, or $40 billion. All of that money, plus interest, will come from current ratepayers. Moreover, PG&E gets a guaranteed 12% rate of return for 50 years on their transmission investments, an extra $4.8 billion per year in pure profit ($48 billion in additional profits over ten years).


What’s the alternative? $88 billion ($40 + $48) is a sick amount of money!  $88 billion would pay for a solar-powered battery backup system on every home and business in PG&E territory. What would you prefer, giving PG&E an extra $4.8 billion of annual profits plus charging ratepayers $40 billion for new transmission lines, or solar and a battery on every rooftop? Tell Governor Newsom: stand up to the utility attack on solar

According to the 2020 IREC National Solar Jobs Census, there are 68,677 direct solar workers in California. When similar net metering reductions and monthly fixed charges were implemented in other states, demand for solar installations plummeted and virtually every solar company was faced with the choice of widespread layoffs or bankruptcy.


California is proud of its clean energy economy, and is the biggest solar jobs employer in the U.S. Do you want the widespread job destruction and losses at solar installers, manufacturers and vendors – as happened in Nevada when net metering was obliterated -- to happen in California? Tell Governor Newsom: stand up to the utility attack on solar

PG&E, California’s biggest utility, filed for bankruptcy twice: the first time in 2001 as a result of California’s energy crisis, then again in 2019 as a result of $30 billion in liabilities for fires started by its poorly maintained equipment. PG&E was criminally convicted twice (so far): for causing the San Bruno fire in 2010 and causing the Camp Fire in 2020. They recently admitted that their equipment caused the Dixie Fire in 2021.  To reward this bad behavior, PG&E announced a plan to pay up to $454 million in bonuses for employees and senior executives, while at the same time telling a federal judge that they cannot afford to maintain a workforce of 5,500 tree trimmers this year.


Should we support a twice bankrupt and twice convicted utility that just raised electric rates by 11% and that lines the pockets of utility executives to the tune of almost half a billion dollars while literally burning down forests and entire communities? Or would it make more sense to invest in clean local power and safety improvements? Tell Governor Newsom: stand up to the utility attack on solar

Let’s compare electricity costs delivered to homes and businesses. PG&E pays less than $0.03/kwh for their own solar-generated electricity, but they charge the average customer $0.30/kwh. Homes and business that install their own solar and storage systems can do so for $0.05 to $0.10/kwh. Utilities benefit by overcharging customers to cover their outrageous overhead costs. On the other hand, everyone benefits when homes and businesses invest in rooftop solar and storage. Over one million solar systems are located at schools, farms, businesses, homes, and low-income apartment buildings throughout California. Thanks to policies like net metering that make solar affordable, 42% of the rooftop solar market is in working-class and middle-class neighborhoods. A new grid modeling report from Vibrant Clean Energy shows growing local solar and storage would save California ratepayers $120 billion over the next 30 years, the equivalent of $295 per year for the average California ratepayer.


It’s time to get MAD! I don’t know about you, but my vision of the future is for every building to generate its own energy, with backup power to cover the inevitable grid outages. I want solar and storage to be affordable for all homeowners, and I want to see a rapid transition to microgrids, two-way power flow, and fully electrified buildings. If you agree… Tell Governor Newsom: stand up to the utility attack on solar