Solar bill that divides Democrats, environmentalists fail
MP Lorena Gonzalez is one of the most powerful lawmakers in the legislature, but a controversial bill she proposed on the future of solar power has failed after strong reluctance from environmentalists and her own party.
Gonzalez, who has championed solar power on rooftops in the past, has proposed reducing the income of a person with solar panels on their roof by selling excess energy back to the grid as part of Bill AB 1139 The bill failed in the Assembly.
Gonzalez and MP Wendy Carrillo, who represent parts of eastern Los Angeles, made a fairness argument: Solar owners are generally wealthier and whiter and can afford to own a range of panels. on their roof. And they are encouraged to sell excess energy back to the grid. But as more solar energy users leave the grid (and start to take advantage of it), it means poorer Californians have to pay increasingly higher tariffs to support the traditional power grid. , equipped with poles, wires and power plants.
It’s a similar economic argument that the California Public Utilities Commission made in a February report, which warned that the poor would bear the brunt of the state’s clean energy shift. San Diego residents pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country. And utilities plan to spend billions more on infrastructure and maintenance to avoid starting wildfires, costs that have yet to be fully calculated in tariffs.
Gonzalez and the company argued that solar energy users would also have to bear a greater portion of these costs.
“It’s easy to call me sold … harder to digest the harsh truth about the regressive way we structure energy prices,” Gonzalez tweeted on June 2.
But climate and environmental groups said Gonazlez’s bill would have killed the solar industry and set a bad precedent for other states seeking to follow California’s golden reputation on climate policy.
San Diego groups like the Climate Action Campaign (behind the region’s largest public energy purchasing organization) Protect Our Communities Foundation (which advocated for the ouster of private company San Diego Gas and Electric in favor of full public control over electricity) and San Diego On Wednesday, the Green New Deal Alliance rallied outside the Chula Vista Public Library, alongside a huge inflatable Monopoly man to make his point. .
They called Gonzalez’s bill a “profit-taking” by private utilities because it reduced incentives for individuals to install solar power on their rooftops, which particularly harms those who do not own. their solar panels but basically rent the equipment from companies like Tesla.
“SDG & E would rather see the end of rooftop solar power and prefer large scale solar power in order to get the (renewable) credits and build transmission lines for which they get a 10% ROI. “said Tara Hammond, founder of Hammond Climate Solutions.
SDG & E has not taken a position on the bill, spokeswoman Helen Gao said.
“Contrary to what some have said, the (solar incentive) reform will not result in additional revenue for utilities,” Gao wrote in an email.
Gao said the three investor-owned California utilities have filed solar incentive reform proposals with the state regulator, calling it “an effort to stop the exacerbation of the existing cost shift that is being unfairly assumed.” by customers who do not have solar systems on their roof ”.
“Change is essential if we are to focus on achieving price equity in every neighborhood,” Gao wrote.
Not all environmental groups were aligned.
The National Resource Defense Council told Gonzalez in a May 28 letter that it supports the bill and agrees with the CPUC’s concern that the shift to clean energy is being borne by Californians. the poorest. But he wants the CPUC to manage solar credits, not the legislature.
The solar industry was against the bill, for obvious reasons. Bernadette Del Chiarro of the California Solar and Storage Association told KPBS that the bill removes the financial incentive for anyone except the very wealthy to install solar panels on rooftops.
“There will be no solar jobs on the rooftops, which are 65,000 strong in the state of California,” Del Chiarro said. “If this bill passes, there will simply be no market for rooftop solar power except for a handful of extremely wealthy people for whom cost is not an issue. . “
Union groups representing electricians appear to be in favor of such a change, many of whom already have long-term contracts with utility companies.
A lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers told SactoPolitico.com that solar energy users should share the costs of infrastructure and forest fire mitigation.
And Gonzalez tweeted that Bill the required solar workers receive the prevailing wages, which generally guarantee workers higher hourly rates.
This could all be worked out by a completely different body in the end – that’s the CPUC, the state’s utility regulators.
The CPUC is already working on updating the solar incentive structure, called the net energy meter in political parlance. Gonzalez’s bill is kind of a kick in the pants of the CPUC in that, if regulators didn’t pass a new policy by then, the agency should have followed the one set out in its bill. of law – if passed.
Among the members of the assembly who voted no were two Democrats from San Diego, MPs Brian Maienschein and Chris Ward, a supporter of clean energy initiatives like the formation of San Diego Community Power. (Note: Interestingly, Eddie Price, chair of the San Diego Community Power community advisory committee, urged his board to “strongly oppose” the bill at a May 27 meeting. The board ultimately decided not to take any position.)
Another Democrat, Carlsbad City Councilor Priya Bhat-Patel, a candidate for the state Senate, sent a missive against the bill this week.
“As a public health professional and a woman of color, I have fought for environmental justice and equity to fight climate change and its health impacts that unduly weigh on low-income communities,” she wrote in a press release. “We need to diversify our options to meet our climate change goals and removing the incentives for solar power will not.
Mayors disagree on SB 9
In a new Union-Tribune editorial, Mayor Todd Gloria touts SB 9, Senate Speaker Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ bill that would allow duplexes and quads on single-family lots.
Gloria’s support for the measure comes as no surprise: as a member of the assembly last year, he voted for an almost identical bill that failed. The relaunched version of this bill is now SB 9.
In her commentary, Gloria challenged those who complain about homelessness and housing affordability: Support the solutions or stop complaining. “If you tell us that you are embarrassed by homelessness in our city, you tell us that you will accept affordable housing in your community,” he writes.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Solana Beach, Lesa Heebner, has explained why she does not support the measure. In last week’s Sacramento report, she said she opposed the bill and didn’t think it would work for wealthy coastal communities like hers.
In a series of comments she wrote in response to this article, Heebner said that because the measure does not include affordable housing provisions, it could make housing more expensive in places like Solana Beach: will lower the prices, ”she wrote.
The bill will now begin to make its way to the Assembly, where it was blocked at the last minute last year, leading to serious tensions between Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
San Diego handbag
MP Akilah Weber joined the Legislature too late to introduce new bills this session, but signed on as the author of an existing effort, making it her first bill.
AB 1207, originally introduced by MP Luz Rivas, establishes a new state task force to study the COVID-19 pandemic and develop strategies to navigate future pandemics. Weber is a doctor.
“I have worked in hospitals throughout the pandemic and have witnessed the real lives of those affected by COVID-19. The next pandemic isn’t about ‘if’, it’s about ‘when’, “she wrote in a press release.” I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to invest in sustainable plans that enhance the lives and health of all Californians during a pandemic. “
The Legislature reached an early budget deal this week (it will still have to iron out some disagreements with Gov. Gavin Newsom before the June 15 budget deadline).
One thing to note: It includes $ 180 million to increase enrollment in the state at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego, the three most sought-after campuses at the University of California. The money would offset the much higher tuition fees paid by foreign students.
Here’s a good explanation from CalMatters on what’s else in the budget.
Secretary of State Shirley Weber told The New York Times about the first meeting of the state reparations task force she legislated last year.
Part of the interview that caught my eye: “Most of the panel members have researched repairs, and they have a vision that’s bigger than what we’ve ever done. We don’t want this to be another affirmative action.
Weber goes on to explain that she’s not against affirmative action, but she certainly doesn’t sound like a cheerleader for it.
Still, Weber was the primary proponent in 2020 of Proposition 16, an effort to restore affirmative action in California.