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Changes To California Solar Market Are Dead For Now

Photo credit: Walmart Corporate via Compfight

Workers install thin film solar panels onto the roof of a Walmart in Mountain View, California, Sept. 2, 2010.

California’s Solar Power Industry and solar advocates are breathing a sigh of relief after the California Assembly failed to pass a bill that would have reshaped the state’s solar marketplace.

AB 1139 was authored by San Diego assembly member Lorena Gonzalez.

The bill drew strong opposition from environmentalists and solar industry officials because it would have changed the state’s net metering system.

RELATED: California Assembly Debating Solar Energy Reforms

Net metering sets up the rules for how residents get paid for any extra electricity they might generate from rooftop solar systems. The original system paid residents the same price utilities charge for power.

Net metering was overhauled in 2016, lowering the price utilities pay for rooftop generated power. It added time-of-use utility prices, interconnection fees, and levied non-bypassable charges that customers without solar pay.

Those changes did not affect customers who already had solar systems on their roofs.

AB 1139 would have further lowered the rates utilities pay for rooftop solar and instituted monthly grid access fees for customers with solar systems. Those fees could range between $50 and $80 a month.

RELATED: Proposed California Law Could Change The State’s Solar Industry

Author Lorena Gonzalez framed the issue as one of equity between solar and non-solar residents.

“It would be nice if rooftop solar worked for everybody but we know it’s never going to,” Gonzalez said. “Those people who are left out, we will be burdening more and more unless we fix this cost shift.”

AB 1139 needed 41 votes to pass the assembly, but it only got 27.

Gonzalez moved the bill to inactive status on Thursday, effectively killing the measure this year.

“While it was a victory, we remain vigilant and we continue to advocate to protect rooftop solar,” said Tara Hammond, of Hammond Climate Solutions. Hammond helped organize opposition to the Assembly bill and she warns the fight continues.

RELATED: New Research Finds Climate Models Mostly Get It Right

“I think our local activists, through events, through phone calls, through meetings, really helped shape the narrative and show the true negative impacts this bill would’ve had on our community,” Hammond said.

The California Public Utilities Commission is currently reviewing 17 proposals that change how rooftop generated electricity is paid for. Regulators could decide on changes to the state’s net metering system by the end of the year.

Reported by Erik Anderson

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Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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