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Debate intensifies over future of rooftop solar as California reviews possible policy changes

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is still accepting public comment over a controversial proposal that would implement major changes to net metering for solar customers of PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E.

If approved by the CPUC, the policy, known as NEM 3.0, would reduce by around 75% the credit that solar owners receive for the energy their systems put back into the grid.

Opponents of the CPUC's proposal, including solar companies and environmental groups, have called for the proposal to be scrapped, and argue it hinders the growth of residential solar in favor of commercial solar.

Renova Energy rallied around 35 of its employees just outside the SCE office building in Cathedral City today to make express opposition to the CPUC's NEM 3.0 proposal. The group was joined by employees of other solar energy companies, environmental groups, and a solar customers. The rally was organized by the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA), which is a solar advocacy group at the state level.

"They {utilities} don't necessarily want rooftop solar to be put on individual homes and businesses. They want to own the solar because they get paid for the distribution of electrons," according to Emily Langenbahn, Policy and Public Relations Manager for Renova Energy.

There is also opposition among other stakeholders, however, there are disagreements when it comes to how either side would like the CPUC to move forward.

"We are urging the California Public Utilities Commission to reform the state's rooftop solar program called Net Energy Metering," said Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for Affordable Clean Energy For All.

The organization is a coalition of 120 groups, social justice groups, environmental groups, consumer groups, and business groups. Southern California Edison (SCE) is one of the coalition's members.

"Rooftop solar homeowners, who tend to be wealthier because they can afford homes, they can afford to put the solar panels on their homes, they are getting very generous subsidies that are almost negating out their utility bills everything month and because their bills are close to zero the aren't chipping in their fair share of costs to run the infrastructure grid, to cover low-income programs, to cover energy efficiency programs and all of those costs that they should be paying are shifted to everyone else who doesn't have solar," said Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for Affordable Clean Energy For All.

Emily Langenbahn, Policy and Public Relations Manager for Renova Energy, pushed back on that stance.

"65% of our customer base, I believe it is, are on lease options," said Langenbahn. "Really, a lot of what we're capturing is the middle class," she added.

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3


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