Not All Solar Power Is Equal: Sacramento Sticks It To The Homeowners

As Governor Brown and legislative leaders try to spur climate change reforms worldwide in Paris, the Los Angeles Times’ energy reporter Ivan Penn uncovered how the statehouse’s climate reform stuck it to rooftop solar power homeowners in favor of the big utilities. 
 
The cautionary tale for Paris reformers is cleaner energy needs also to be cheaper energy and ratepayers shouldn’t be taken for a ride in the process or it will undermine the movement to curb global warming.
 
Penn, a longtime energy reporter who gets the inside game, unpacks the package that Brown and company delivered to Californians in September. He shows how rooftop solar power is not included in California’s new renewal portfolio standard (RPS), even though the other 21 states with the renewable standard do include it. That’s a gold rush for the big utilities and leaves homeowners who invested in solar power out in the cold.
 
 
The new laws mean ratepayers will be paying investor-owned utilities too much to subsidize building power plants that aren’t really needed. That’s because the “RPS” standard, that determines how much energy generation is needed, doesn’t include rooftop solar energy already available. If rooftop solar were included, it would purportedly cut the need to build new power plants by one third. 
 
Utilities and unions are happy to build power plants and take their cut of the new infrastructure and transmission costs. And they control Sacramento policy. But by ignoring rooftop solar energy they will be overbuilding and overbilling for the build – costing ratepayers and generating more greenhouse gas in the construction and maintenance of the unneeded plants.
 
For rooftop solar owners, the new state law means that while utilities that build solar installations will make 50 bucks for creating enough solar power to roughly run a home for a month (1,000 Kilowatt hours), the homeowner who invested in solar panels will only make one hundredth of a cent on the same energy put on the grid.
 
Why stick it to the homeowner? They don’t employ lobbyists.  As Penn reports, homeowners who invested in solar panels are up in arms.  And solar panel inequality isn’t the only economic injustice tucked into the Democrats' reform bill SB 350.
 
When pursuing their greening goals Sacramento Democrats have a habit of forgetting the pocketbook interests that consumers care most about.
 
Take SB 350, the pre-Paris Democratic reform curtain opener, which once included a new target of reducing petroleum use by 50% in 15 years.  The oil industry convinced moderates the bill would raise gas prices, when in fact the opposite was true.  If the Democrats had simply addressed the gas price issue, and included some simple transparency reforms to curb the well-established Golden State gasoline price gouging, they could have beaten Big Oil at its own game.
 
Will Democrats ever learn that cleaner and cheaper, saving green all the way around, is how to build a bigger populist movement against climate change? What does or doesn’t come out of Paris will be a critical test. 

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