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Wither rooftop solar?

 January 20, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday January 20th>>>>

A controversial solar plan tabled but not forgotten

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

San Diego county recorded more than 35,000 new covid-19 infections from last Friday to Monday. It puts the county's total cases over the 600,000 mark. But signs are looking up. Christopher Longhurst is the chief medical officer at UC San Diego Health. He tweeted that there’s ``multiple signs we are sliding down the Omicron slope,'' with case rates and hospitalizations on the decline compared to a week ago.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the South Bay’s two main medical facilities declared “internal disasters.” Scripps and Sharp Chula Vista both faced a barrage of patients with no more beds or resources to safely care for them. Sharp Healthcare CEO Chris Howard says the current surge is different from last year.

“Not only are our hospitals and emergency department incredibly full, but staffing is incredibly stressed. We have staff that are out with COVID, we have staff that have retired or resigned.”

The internal disaster was called off at Scripps Chula Vista Tuesday night and Sharp’s ended early Wednesday morning.


San Diego County sheriff Bill Gore says he's retiring next month. Gore has less than a year left in his term. He didn't explain why he's retiring early, but said he looks forward to giving his full attention to his wife. Gore became sheriff in 2009. Four candidates are running to replace him, with the primary election set for June 7.


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

California regulators are holding off on considering a proposal that would upend the state’s solar marketplace.

KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson says the delay likely means changes to the controversial plan are in the works.

The California Public Utilities Commission delivered grim news for the state’s solar installers last month.

“It’s so bad”

Bernadette Del Chiarro is the executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association.

“We think that the proposed decision, the bones of it, are so rotten, it will not hold.”

The public agency recommended slashing how much homeowners are paid for electricity generated by their rooftop solar panels. And it proposed a steep increase in grid access charges for a typical solar customer – up to about 60 dollars a month. The plan essentially negates the financial incentives for homeowners to pay thousands of dollars to add solar panels to their roofs. Solar industry advocates say the changes could dry up demand for the green-energy option and throw thousands of solar installers out of work. That got solar workers to a rally in Los Angeles last week .

“Save solar….Save solar….save solar….”

The message was aimed at the CPUC’s satellite office in L-A. The solar workers, like ReVamp Energy’s owner Jay Cutting, says his brown and black workers need the support of commissioners.

“We would hate to see all the hard work and progress that we’ve made be killed by this bill. This solar tax. We came to show our support and say, save our jobs.

But the commission isn’t the only target. Solar industry backers have worked hard to get the attention of Governor Gavin Newsom. And hints that their campaign is working came when Newsom answered questions about the proposal during the unveiling of his proposed budget earlier this month.

“That draft plan that was recently released I just had a chance to review and I’ll say this about the plan. we still have some work to do.”

When asked again later during the media event, Newsom was vague, but did suggest the proposal would not survive in its current form.

“I think my answer says at least responds to the later part of your question, do I think that changes need to be made, yes I do.”

A recent development suggests change might be coming. The CPUC failed to put the item on its January 27th agenda, after planning a vote for more than a year. It is unclear if the issue is just being pushed back a couple of weeks or longer.

“There’s no question the commission needs more time on this.

Solar industry backer Bernadette Del Chiarro is not ready to call the delay a victory, especially with the commission in flux. The CPUC president has only been in office since the beginning of the year, and another of the panel’s five seats remain unfilled.

“It is unprecedented, the shakeup of the leadership of this commission right at the five-yard line of one of the biggest decisions they have made this decade.”

San Diego Gas and Electric has remained quiet on the issue since early last year. The utility called the process sensitive and told KPBS they would not be commenting until after the regulators make their decision. But utility backed groups continue to run ads on social media

“A flaw in state law is forcing Californians who can’t afford rooftop solar to subsidize wealthier homeowners who can. Seniors and families struggling pay hundreds more each year in higher energy bills. Fix this unfair cost shift.”

And they have surrogates making their case. Kathy Fairbanks runs the utility funded group Affordable Energy For All.

“It’s unfair and we understand why the solar industry is objecting to these reforms. It means cuts to their profits. It means cuts to executive salaries and bonuses. It means cuts to their shareholders.”

Meanwhile, solar industry backers say it’s utilities that are motivated by greed. Regulators will make the final decision. They have changed the solar market once before making only minor tweaks after a more sweeping utility friendly proposal was rejected. It remains unclear if that will happen again.

Erik Anderson KPBS News


covid cases spiked last week among federal immigration detainees at a san diego detention center. inewsource investigative reporter sofía mejías pascoe tells us what’s behind the outbreak.

More than 90 detainees of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency known as ICE tested positive for COVID-19 last week at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. The record spike in cases comes while the facility’s detainee population has more than doubled in less than a year.

Meanwhile ICE officials have not said how many detainees in the facility are vaccinated or boosted.

That’s concerning to Bardis Vakili. He’s a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

The need to vaccinate them, the need to ensure they have access to boosters to continue to protect them is really critical.

Vakili said there are more than 500 medically-vulnerable detainees currently held at the facility.

That was inewsource investigative reporter Sofía Mejías Pascoe. inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of kpbs.


A new statewide study finds black Californians say their experiences in the state’s health care system was impacted by racism. capradio’s sarah mizes-tan reports.

The study was conducted by the California Health Care Foundation and surveyed a hundred Black Californians on their experiences with the healthcare system.The survey found Black residents saw health holistically, and many felt racism they encountered in the health system negatively impacted their physical well-being.Katherine Haynes is with the California Health Care Foundation. She says many respondents had low expectations the health care system would resolve their medical issues.

HAYNES: Black people, Black Californians in this case care a lot about their health and do a lot of things to pursue health. The course that they have to take to pursue health in the healthcare system is obstructed.

The study will have two follow-ups: Possible solutions and advice for Black people looking to access better health care. The full report will be released this coming summer.


Coming up.... This week a new federal program lets people order at-home covid tests delivered right to their door. We’ll take a closer look at how that went, that’s next, just after the break.

The new federal program that allows people to order free at home covid tests through the mail launched on (Tuesday), one day early. The order form looks pretty simple, but it wasn't easy for everyone who tried to submit orders in the first hours.

KQED’s Carly Severn spoke with California Report Host Saul Gonzalez about the roll out.

That was KQED’s Carly Severn speaking with California Report Host Saul Gonzalez.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Eening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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California utility regulators have quietly tabled a controversial plan that would drastically reduce the benefits provided to homeowners with rooftop solar panels. Plus, the Otay Mesa Detention Center saw a spike in covid-19 cases last week among federal immigration detainees. Plus, the federal program to order covid-19 at-home testing rolled out this week.