Round two in the effort to save solar in California

The California Public Utilities Commission released its revised rooftop solar energy proposal last week. Here's the good, the bad, and our next steps:

Clean energy

Staff | TPIN
Environment California staff, including Laura Deehan (serving ice cream on the upper right) and Ben Grundy (lower left), took part in the Everyone Under the Sun rally, which demonstrated diverse support for rooftop solar across California.

Rooftop solar is one of our best energy sources, but its progress was put newly at risk last week.

Rooftop solar is an important piece of the puzzle for California to reach its clean energy goals. Given rooftop solar’s benefits and the state’s commitment to clean energy, widespread outrage followed last year’s proposal by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that would have slashed the growth of solar in our state by gutting our net metering program, charging solar-only taxes and breaking commitments to solar owners.

In response to concerns by Environment California and others, in February 2021, the CPUC put its proposed decision on hold. But we always knew that was just Round One. So, throughout the summer and fall, we’ve kept up the drumbeat of support for solar, by celebrating California’s rank of No. 1 for solar in the nation and the benefits that come from that, and by rallying to support solar with Everyone Under the Sun.

Last week, the CPUC issued a revised proposal. Here’s what’s in it:

The good? The latest proposal addresses numerous critiques we raised previously. It eliminates the solar tax, or “grid participation fee,” that the previous proposal would have implemented on solar consumers and honors the commitment to pay current rates to existing solar energy system owners who send excess power they generate to the grid.

The bad? The proposed decision still slashes the rate at which new solar consumers can sell their excess electricity back to the grid by 75%, reducing a key incentive for people to install solar in their homes and recoup their investment within a reasonable time frame.

At a time when California needs rooftop solar to flourish, it’s risky to cut a key incentive without having a viable alternative in place. As I said in The Los Angeles Times, California’s decision-makers “need to make rooftop solar as affordable and accessible as possible so that every household with solar potential can realistically make the choice to go solar.”

What’s next for California’s rooftop solar?

Last week’s release of the proposed decision kicks off debate at the CPUC, with oral arguments taking place on Nov. 16 and a final vote scheduled for Dec. 15.

Over the coming days and weeks, Environment California will keep organizing Californians and influential leaders to weigh in, and keep you updated on our progress.


Laura Deehan

State Director, Environment California

Laura directs Environment California's work to tackle global warming, protect the ocean and fight for clean air, clean water, open spaces and a livable planet. Laura stepped into the State Director role in January, 2021 and has been on staff for over twenty years. She has led campaigns to make sure California goes big on offshore wind and to get lead out of school drinking water. As the Environment California Field Director, she worked to get California to go solar, ban single use plastic grocery bags and get on track for 100% clean energy. Laura lives with her family in Richmond, California where she enjoys hiking, yoga and baking.