How Will Solar Grow with Changes to NEM

Taxation Without Representation: PG&E and other utilities want to penalize homeowners with solar panels

The CPUC released a recommendation to change Net Energy Metering (NEM) several months ago, and has since backtracked. There are some good concepts being looked at, but we and many others feel they are being addressed improperly. No news is good news – for now – but we need to make sure the people of California understand what is at stake here. 

Change is Constant, Progress Must Be Too

We acknowledge that NEM must change. Balancing the needs of everyone is important, but ham-fisted attacks from the utilities on solar rights must end. Utility companies rely on an outdated model – “the way it’s always been” – and we can’t let them block progress to achieve “the way it should be”. The time for brilliant forward-thinking innovation is now, and we have to work together to protect consumers and the earth, not the profits of (already plenty wealthy) utility shareholders.

We’re Not Alone

We side with Solar United Neighbors, Vote Solar, Solar Rights Alliance, and other pro-solar groups in calling on our elected officials to actually represent the desires of their constituents. Most Californians love solar – between 60-80%, depending how past surveys were phrased – and want to see more of it. We encourage the public to be wary of “grassroots” organizations that are really “astroturf” (funded by utilities and fossil fuel lobbyists in the guise of organic popular movements).

Follow the Money

Let’s take a quick step into the past for reference. How have utility rates changed over the past few decades? How have they changed even in the past few years? How is that impacting families? Utilities are doing good things – such as allowing NEM in the first place and weighing how to get more storage on the grid with fair compensation – but it’s hard to ignore their itchy trigger fingers hovering over the kill switch. They fulfill a vital need for society, but ultimately they need to respond to their customers’ desires and adapt to changes in the playing field – if they’re more interested in making money than in making solutions, then it’s time for change.

With this recent proposal, the utilities are trying an age-old tactic of trying to change the rules mid-game so they stay on top, and consumers and small businesses pay the price. As solar expands, utilities want to own it for themselves and keep it out of consumers’ hands, so their overall “provider-consumer” model remains intact and they can continue to dictate unilateral fee increases. We can’t fault them for wanting to stay in business. But it’s so shortsighted. Evolving our clean energy economy, and sharing ideas and sweat-equity, and making a collaborative effort to transition to a better system is long overdue. Storage, microgrids, local community solar; all of these things can be accomplished if everyone is represented properly at the table.

We are going to continue installing solar no matter what. We know full well that every panel that we install isn’t going anywhere for a long time. And we’re always looking for people who are excited to build the future with us. So whatever you can do, as a constituent contacting your elected officials or as a solar professional who wants to partner up, we thank you for taking action.

Read Solar 101 for more information about solar energy.