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Solar Power Advocates Challenge California Bill Regulating Rates

The Sierra Club, solar power installers and concerned citizens are challenging a California Assembly bill that would change how much utilities pay residents for the solar power they generate.

Solar power advocates in San Diego are concerned about a bill in the California Assembly that would change the rates utilities pay residents for the solar power they generate.

Activists say a provision in AB 327 would allow utilities to charge customers a flat fee.

San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said that fee adds an expense to rooftop solar owners don’t currently have to pay.

“This will discourage people from putting solar on their roofs," said Jacob at a press conference on Wednesday. "It will discourage energy conservation measures and policies at the state, which have been in place over 20 years. It’s a big step backwards.”

Nathan Myers is a San Diego homeowner who has invested in solar power. He said AB 327 would threaten rooftop solar.

"For me, it turns my solar investment from one that should pay back before I retire into an expensive loss,” said Myers.

San Diego Gas & Electric spokesperson Stephanie Donovan says the utility is not interested in pinching off the solar pipeline.

“SDG&E supports solar," Donova said. "In fact, we have about 26,000 customers with rooftop solar on their homes and businesses today. It’s a good thing, but the way it is today, without a change in the rate structure, its not sustainable.”

Donovan said current rates are out of line with what energy costs. She said some customers buy power at below market costs, and others pay more.

Passing AB 327 would also shift the authority to make rate structure changes from the Legislature back to the California Public Utilities Commission; Lawmakers seized that responsibility during the electricity crisis in 2001.

The California Senate Appropriations Committee is set to hear the bill on Friday.

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