The Center for Biological Diversity, The Protect Our Communities Foundation and the Environmental Working Group late Wednesday petitioned the California Court of Appeal to review the state’s new rooftop solar policy. The policy, which took effect April 15, significantly slashes the credit new solar users get for sharing their extra solar energy with the grid.
The legal action comes after Commission President Alice Reynolds ignored a request to delay the effective date until regulators resolve an appeal the groups filed in January.
“The commission’s misguided new policy violates California’s climate laws and will stifle rooftop solar growth, especially for working-class families,” said Roger Lin, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “California is ground zero for the climate emergency, and it’s outrageous that the commission is slow-walking our renewable energy transition when we need to be racing toward it. I’m hopeful the court will force regulators to implement a new policy that’s in the public interest instead of one that pads fossil fuel utility profits.”
The petition says the new rooftop solar policy “will devastate solar adoption rates, especially for working-class Californians” and ignores rooftop solar benefits, including “reduced greenhouse gas emissions, resilience to extreme weather and power outages, and avoided land use impacts by decreasing the need for utility transmission infrastructure which also keeps electricity bills down.”
The new policy slashes customer credits by up to 80% for electricity generated on rooftops and sold back to the grid, which reduces the financial benefit of installing solar systems but spurred a boom for installation before the rules changed. State law requires the new policy to ensure that the market for rooftop solar keeps growing, particularly in environmental justice communities.
“The commission’s new rooftop solar policy enables the utilities’ self-interested attack on rooftop solar,” said Bill Powers, an energy expert with The Protect Our Communities Foundation. “The real problem is heedless pursuit of maximum profit by the utilities at the expense of reasonable rates and commonsense climate action.”
The petition says for-profit utilities across the country are trying to gut rooftop solar programs because distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar, threaten the utility business model. A new Center report explains rooftop solar and net-metering benefits and why corporates utility companies are trying to kill these programs.
“The commission’s outrageous decision to hobble the state’s residential solar program will allow PG&E and other power companies to continue wasting resources on misguided and high-cost infrastructure projects that will only worsen the climate crisis,” said Caroline Leary, the Environmental Working Group’s chief operating officer and general counsel. “By putting rooftop solar financially out of reach for millions of working families, this will likely result in California becoming more dependent on dirty fossil fuel plants to compensate for electricity shortfalls.”
In addition to the commission, the lawsuit names the three large investor-owned utility companies in California: Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company. The commission and utility companies have 30 days to respond to the petition with the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
News item from the Center for Biological Diversity