Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 14, 2022

Contact:

Jessica Guadalupe Tovar, Local Clean Energy Alliance, (415) 766-7766, jessica@localcleanenergy.org
Kevin Hamilton, Central California Asthma Collaborative, (559) 272-4874, kevin.hamilton@centralcalasthma.org
Roger Lin, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7100, ext. 363, rlin@biologicaldiversity.org

California Should Reject Solar Tax, Boost Solar in Environmental Justice Communities

SACRAMENTO— More than 125 California and national climate and equity groups, representing millions of people, called on the governor’s office today to reject the California Public Utility Commission’s proposed solar tax and maintain the state’s solar credit to grow rooftop solar in environmental justice communities.

“Overall, weakening the (net metering) program, as proposed by the CPUC, simply imposes additional barriers to the achievement of California’s—and the country’s—climate and equity goals,” the groups’ letter said. “The only beneficiaries of a weakened NEM program are the state’s private electric utilities, who have weaponized the purported equity issue to perpetuate their stranglehold on the state’s centralized, fossil-fuel intensive power system.”

Last year the commission faced tremendous opposition when it proposed revising the net-metering program and adding a grid participation charge that could have eliminated rooftop solar in California. The commission shelved that proposal but is considering alternative methods to tax solar and diminish its value. A new commissioner has been assigned to review these alternatives.

“This is an urgent call for strengthening local solar policies like net energy metering,” said Jessica Tovar, energy democracy organizer for the Local Clean Energy Alliance. “Local clean energy can bring affordability, good jobs and clean air, and reduce the climate burden. This is what undoing the legacy of environmental injustice looks like. Shame on the utilities for playing these divide-and-conquer games. Low income and communities of color are not bargaining chips for multibillion-dollar corporations.”

Today’s letter says regulators based their December proposal on flawed modeling and false claims from the utility industry that low-income customers are harmed by net metering.

“Existing rooftop solar customers already pay an electric delivery fee and are already charged the highest tier rate at night or during high heat periods where HVAC is run a lot during the day,” said Kevin Hamilton, co-director of the Central California Asthma Collaborative. “Most rooftop-solar systems only cover 80% of electric usage based on the year before installation. Solar customers are not riding for free!”

Regulators also failed to analyze non-solar customer bills and ignored or underestimated the benefits of net metering and the harms from fossil fuel energy, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, the letter said.

“State action for climate justice is more crucial than ever as the federal government plans to expand fossil fuel extraction and the Supreme Court has limited federal authority to regulate climate pollution,” said Roger Lin, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without a strong net-metering program, low-income communities won’t benefit from solar incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act. Taxing solar power and protecting utility company profits, under the guise of equity, harms the very communities these corporate monopolies claim they want to help.”

The commission has a deadline next year to decide the fate of net metering, but it could release its new proposal any day.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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