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The Fight for Fair Solar Electric Rates

$0.25/kwh – what a typical California homeowner pays for electricity (based on current PG&E rates at the U.S. average of 12,000 kwh/yr) $0.12/kwh – what a typical California homeowner pays for Net Metered rooftop solar electricity (based on a 5 kw system installed at $3.75/watt) – what you can do right now to prevent utility companies from killing rooftop solar

Rooftop solar electricity is half the price of utility-supplied electricity. No business can survive when their product is that overpriced. EXCEPT a monopoly.

As a monopoly, utility companies are permitted to set their electric rates so that they earn a minimum 10% profit. Their reaction to cheaper rooftop solar is to bombard the public with misinformation (solar is for wealthy people), fear mongering (more solar will cause the grid to collapse) and dirty tricks (trust us, new electric rates are actually good for consumers). To make matters worse, this advertising and lobbying is paid for by electric ratepayers themselves.

Utility companies haven’t been able to make rooftop solar illegal (although they have tried); instead, they have insidiously reduced the benefits of Net Metering by increasing fixed charges and reducing Net Metering rates. In Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada these attacks against rooftop solar have been so effective that many solar companies have laid off employees. Effectively, residential and commercial electric rates have gone up.

California is the next big battleground for rooftop solar. This battle is being fought at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), where utilities want to eliminate Net Metering. Utilities are proposing solar-only fees and charges that will double the paybacks for new customers (including existing customers who want to expand their systems).

Luckily, with 250,000 rooftop systems already in place and over 54,000 people working directly in the solar industry, California can resist this utility bullying. The California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) is the focal point for continuing the growth of affordable solar in the state, and Bernadette del Chiaro is CALSEIA’s Executive Director. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Bernadette explains the tactics that utilities are using, the reasonable arguments for continuing with retail Net Metering, and the actions that every reader and listener can take to support the growth of the rooftop solar industry.


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