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Changes to California’s solar marketplace

 November 16, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, November 16th.

The value of solar electricity could be slashed.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


Graduate student workers and teaching assistants at UCSD are striking for better wages and working conditions.

Today’s the third day of the strike.

Yesterday, some classes were canceled and others disrupted because there weren’t enough instructors to lead them.

Many students at UC-SD, like Carmen Aloia, were surprised to hear how little some of the striking employees make.

“I just didn’t know the extent of everything that they were dealing with. So of course, this brings to light a lot of issues.”

Negotiations are continuing, but the U-C system is floating the idea of mediation.

Union leaders are opposed to that and are asking the university to continue to bargain in good faith.


S-D-G-AND-E is warning customers to be on the look out for scammers threatening to cut service if payments aren't made right away.

The scam usually involves a caller pretending to be a utility collections employee…

The scammer tells the victim their account is delinquent and that a technician will arrive within an hour to shut off their electricity if they do not pay the past due amount right away

S-D-G-AND-E said in a statement that it would never call to demand immediate payment over the phone with the threat of service disconnection.


Santa Ana winds are expected to become more intense and widespread today, reaching up to 35 miles an hour.

Forecasters warn the wind could blow hard enough to knock over trees and make driving hazardous in some areas.

The windy conditions are expected to weaken tomorrow and Friday and become even milder throughout the weekend.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


The uncertainty hanging over California’s solar marketplace is beginning to clear, now that regulators have unveiled their plan to reshape solar rules.

KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson says regulators are hearing from the affected parties today, it’ll be the last chance for public input before the commission votes next month.

Belinda Martinez moved into Oceanside’s older neighborhoods in 2003 after finding a Spanish colonial cottage on a rare, oversized lot. “We fell in love with the neighborhood.   Our neighbors, just sweetheart neighbors.”  Martinez added 13 solar panels just over five years ago. The solar array is located on the home’s flat roof keeping it mostly hidden from the street. But the impact is very visible on the Martinez electricity bill. “We’ve only seen credit on our utility, so basically we have no electrical bill.” That bill credit comes from California’s Net Energy Metering regulations. Initially, utilities had to pay homeowners the retail rate for electricity generated by rooftop solar. The system was adjusted in 2017.  Solar owners had to enroll in time of use rate plans. And utilities paid a few pennies less for a kilowatt hour of electricity the bought from solar owners than what they could sell to other customers. “We’re putting out energy to them, they pay a certain fee for that energy output and we’re paying, we’re obviously paying for the energy in the peak period and it still allows us to have credits.” But changes proposed last December would’ve upended that system. A utility backed plan slashed the value of rooftop generated electricity by 80 percent. And the plan had steep mandatory grid access fees. The outcry was immediate. After a few weeks of blistering public dissent, regulators put that plan on hold. solar advocates cheered the delay but it was not time to ring the victory bell. Dave Rosenfeld, Solar Rights Alliance. “We knew that, just because the CPUC paused, didn’t mean that they were convinced they were wrong.  And one.  Number two.  The governor did say that changes need to be made but he didn’t say what those changes ought to be. Well, that’s a pretty wide spread.”  Solar supporters spent this year shining a light on the threat posed by the December proposal. Protesters rallied at utility offices around the state, including San Diego based Sempra’s headquarters in July. “Please reverse course on your attack campaign on rooftop solar. A Sacramento rally in October appealed to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to protect the solar industries 67-thousand jobs. Rosenfeld says advocates lobbied lawmakers and for months they flooded CPUC meetings with public comment. “It’s very rare for the regular public to interact with the CPUC. And, you know, for most of the time that this campaign has been going on, too, we’ve been in a COVID type environment where the CPUC wasn’t even meeting in person. So it wasn’t until the spring there was even an in person meeting where the CPUC would be in a position to look the public in the eye and hear from members of the public.” Economics are at the heart of the solar issue.  Advocates want to make sure homeowners see financial benefits for their solar arrays. Bernadette Del Chiaro, CAL Solar and Storage Association “If you put 25-thousand dollars into a solar system how many years does it take for that upfront investment to pay for itself in savings in utility bill savings.” Remove the financial incentive, supporters say, and solar installations grind to a halt. But the state’s investor-owned utilities say grid expenses are being shifted to non-solar customers. Kathy Fairbanks is with the utility funded group, Affordable Access for All. Kathy Fairbanks, Affordable Energy For All “We want the CPUC to reform the net energy metering program to make sure that everyone is paying their fair share.” The new proposed rules didn’t please either side.  The onerous grid connection fees are gone, but the value of electricity generated by rooftop solar is being slashed.  Pro utility groups say non solar customers still pay an unfair share of baked in grid costs.  Solar industry backers say removing financial incentives will slow solar adoption which is bad for the state’s climate goals. Regulators could tweak the plan based on the Wednesday hearing, but they remain poised to make a final decision in mid-December. Erik Anderson KPBS News


San Diego city council candidate Tommy Hough (How) has conceded the 6th district race.

In an email yesterday, Hough (How) thanked his supporters and promised to – quote – “keep fighting for what’s right.”

Kent Lee won the 6th District seat with 60-percent of the vote.

Last week’s election gives San Diego a city council completely made up of Democrats.


Speaking of election results ……

John Hemmerling conceded the San Diego County Sheriff’s race to Kelly Martinez Monday night.

Sheriff-elect Martinez hasn’t been sworn in yet, but she’s already appointing new senior level staff.

KPBS reporter John Carroll tells us,Martinez faces big challenges once she takes office.

The biggest of those challenges is arguably changing the way the sheriff’s department runs San Diego County jails.  The county now has the dubious distinction of having the most in-custody deaths of any county in the state.  The North County Equity & Justice Coalition’s Yusef Miller says his group is ready to work with Martinez, but he says the jury is out on whether Martinez will be willing to make the changes he says are needed.“Her ability to do what we need to save lives in custody is also tempered with needing to work with her to make sure that these reforms are implemented.” We reached out to Martinez, who is currently the undersheriff, but were told she was unavailable for comment.  JC, KPBS News.


The midterm elections have provided some lessons for the next generation of voters.

KPBS Education reporter M.G. Perez visited one North County classroom to talk with students.

High Tech High North County in San Marcos has a senior class of 95 students. Although most of them are not old enough to vote yet…they have been learning lessons in how the U.S. government works…and even when it doesn’t. 17 year old Sink-ee Chapman is a senior who wants to study abroad in college and maybe visit her home country of Somalia. “I’m proud to be an American and proud to challenge everything that is America…we have a lot of things we have to solve. The High Tech High North County senior class conducted their own election early this month…asking students in 9th through 11th grade to vote on all the California propositions.The student results will be announced at a school assembly on December 16th. MGP KPBS NEWS.


Coming up.... Leaders of a local nonprofit spark controversy over loaning 70-thousand-dollars worth of antiques. We’ll have that story next, just after the break.


The leaders of a high-profile San Diego nonprofit sparked a major controversy over 70-thousand-dollars worth of historical antiques.

investigative reporter Jill Castellano breaks this down for us in part one, of her two-part series.

"CASTELLANO: For two decades, Bruce and Alana Coons have led San Diego’s premier nonprofit committed to historic preservation, called Save Our Heritage Organization, or SOHO. CASTELLANO: The controversy at SOHO is a long and complicated story. It started around 2017, when the Coons, who are married, were looking for a home to live in when they retire. CASTELLANO: Here’s Lori Peoples, a former board member at SOHO. PEOPLES: I had actually traveled with them when we were friends and stuff. We had done tours of the south and that was one of their goals was to have a home in the south. CASTELLANO: The Coons eventually purchased a two-story mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. Then, in 2019, they agreed to participate in a historic home tour — an event where residents could walk through their property to learn about history and architecture. CASTELLANO: And here’s the part that some people at SOHO found concerning. CASTELLANO: The Coons shipped dozens of SOHO’s antiques from the San Diego non-profit's storage room all the way to their private Mississippi home to display on the tour. AND the couple received a cut of the proceeds from the tour. CASTELLANO: Christopher Pro, who worked with SOHO for 20 years, said he didn’t understand why the Coons were using SOHO’s delicate antiques for an event that had no connection to the organization. PRO: There’s no reason to loan out sterling silver teaspoons or an artifact, or the decanter set that’s so fragile, to be shipping it 1,300 miles away. There’s no reason for that. CASTELLANO: The antiques, including a $12,000 pair of candlesticks and a $5,000 set of rosewood chairs, stayed in Mississippi for more than two years. CASTELLANO: Then, in December last year, the Coons posted their mansion for sale on-line with photos that included SOHO’s antiques and a description that said “original antiques” came with the purchase. That prompted complaints to SOHO’s board of directors. CASTELLANO: Peoples said when she told some board members about her concerns, they didn’t even know the antiques existed. That made her even more concerned. PEOPLES: They set themselves up for failure and for questioning. CASTELLANO: In an interview, the Coons acknowledged that they had loaned the items to themselves for their personal use… without getting approval from anyone else at SOHO. Experts said that’s not how loans should be made. VOGT: There’s a conflict of interest there, obviously. CASTELLANO: That’s Jim Vogt, a certified fraud investigator and lecturer at San Diego State University. VOGT: You can't just unilaterally say, 'Oh, I'm gonna borrow these things from the organization,' regardless of your position in the organization. CASTELLANO: Here’s some audio from an interview with SOHO leadership, which is a little hard to hear because so many people were in the room. BRUCE COONS: We’re making this up as we go on. We’ve been entrepreneurial in fashion, and we’re learning. CASTELLANO: That’s Bruce Coons. He and his wife said they realize they should’ve gotten permission to use the antiques and they’re glad new policies are now in place to spell out how SOHO property can be used. But they completely deny any wrongdoing and said they did not personally benefit from the antiques in any way. CASTELLANO: The couple said they spent more than $20,000 preparing for the home tour, way more than what they earned from it. They also provided a list of items that they were offering for sale with their house, which did not include any of the nonprofit’s antiques. Here’s Alana Coons. ALANA COONS: Our entire life, everything we do is dedicated to helping and growing and building, so this just goes completely against anything and everything that anyone knows about us or who we are. So we wanted scrutiny. CASTELLANO: The Coons said they quickly shipped the items back to SOHO once concerns were raised. In July, an audit found that all the antiques were returned. But that audit caused its own controversy - one board member even resigned because of it. More on that coming in part two. CASTELLANO: For KPBS, I’m inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano."

To learn more, go to inewsource-dot-org.

inewsource is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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The uncertainty hanging over California’s solar marketplace is beginning to clear, now that regulators have unveiled their plan to reshape solar rules. In other news, San Diego County Sheriff-elect Kelly Martinez faces changing the way the sheriff’s department runs San Diego County jails. The county has the most in-custody deaths of any county in the state. Plus, leaders of a high-profile San Diego nonprofit sparked a major controversy over $70,000 worth of historical antiques.