Once again, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is trying to kill off net metering, which compensates owners of rooftop solar energy arrays for the local clean electricity they generate and export to the grid. The CPUC’s latest proposal, dubbed NEM 3.0, replaces a proposal that received an avalanche of community criticism earlier this year. Now, the CPUC is back with what it is advertising as a new approach, but it’s still a threat.
Don’t be fooled, NEM 3.0 is another attack on net metering in California, designed to further enrich the state’s corporate utilities. SoCal Edison, SDG&E and PG&E see the value of our solar sector, and they do not want to share that value with everyday Californians. We must not allow utilities to colonize our emerging clean energy future — to control our solar energy — by hoarding profits and power.
Utilities know that if they can game the system so that they are the only ones who can afford to generate solar energy, we Californians will have to keep paying our rising utility bills and covering the costs of their infrastructure failures. Just like the CPUC’s previous proposal, this plan would be disastrous for locally produced solar energy and harm people of color and other vulnerable communities who want access to local solar and jobs.
The CPUC must stop trying to kill off rooftop solar by making it too expensive for average people and completely out of reach for frontline communities in particular. The CPUC must stop its false claims that frontline communities are overburdened with energy costs because of “cost shifts” from utility-free solar generation.
Ratepayers are indeed overburdened, but it’s not our neighbors with solar who are at fault. We are overburdened by corporate utilities that pile additional costs on ratepayers, from bailouts for utility-caused wildfires, to hefty pay and benefits for corporate heads. These utilities prioritize profits over managing their own transmission infrastructure and adapting to the demands of a clean-energy future.
As a longtime environmental health and climate justice organizer, I bear witness to the horrors of families and workers who have borne the brunt of environmental racism. From gas-fired power plants to waste incineration, we pay for dirty energy with exorbitant utility bills, with our health, and even with our lives. While we struggle to make ends meet, the utilities have no qualms about leaving our communities in the dark.
I urge the CPUC to expand net-metering and ensure equitable access to clean, renewable solar energy for all Californians. Frontline communities in particular want the opportunity to produce a healthier utility system that also helps build local wealth and clean energy jobs. It can do this by incentivizing and expanding community-owned and community-based models like shared solar, virtual net energy metering, and solar cooperatives. We also need microgrids of island-able solar generation, and energy storage that can keep the power on during crises, blackouts and power shut-offs.
We refuse to continue to prop up the failed corporate-controlled dirty electricity sector — the same sector that has perpetuated environmental injustices that make us sick, drain our bank accounts, and sometimes even kill us through pollution, utility fires, and the growing climate crisis.
California must ramp up incentives that advance local clean energy solutions and undo the legacy of environmental injustice. Our low-income communities of color are not sacrifice zones for pollution, utility wildfires and climate chaos. Nor are they bargaining chips for multi-billion-dollar corporations.
I urge the CPUC to do the right thing and scrap NEM 3.0. Locally generated clean energy is true clean energy. We demand clean power by the people, for the people.
Jessica Guadalupe Tovar is an Energy Democracy Organizer for the Local Clean Energy Alliance and Coordinator of the East Bay Clean Power Alliance.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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