Supervisor Dianne Jacob Defends Rooftop Solar

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Many hoped California’s net-metering war was ending two years ago, when Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 327. The state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was given to the end of this year to create a new tariff that will kick in once the state’s big three investor owned utilities (PG&E, SCE and SDG&E) reach 5% nameplate generation capacity under net metering. With the deadline approaching,  the “big three” went on the offensive. One of the California Public Utilities Commission hearings was in San Diego, on Oct. 28, 2015. That was where County Supervisor Dianne Jacob Defends Rooftop Solar.

SDG&E’s Story

Baker Electric Solar in Escondido
Baker Electric Solar installation in Escondido, San Diego County – Courtesy of HERO PACE

California’s utility’s all say they like solar energy.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) recently issued a press release stating that, over the past 20 years, it connected almost 70,000 customers to the grid.

The problem, according to SDG&E, is that, “Today, families without solar panels—nearly 95 percent of SDG&E’s customers—pay an extra $100 per year to support the current program. If the current program structure and subsidies continue, these same families without solar panels are forecasted to pay an extra $360 on their utility bill annually by 2025.”

At the bottom of that press release, SDG&E boasts that it is the subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company.

According to SEC filings, SDG&E had a net income of $374 million during the first half of 2015.

Some of SDG&E’s enemies believe this is a case of corporate greed rather than need.

On October 28 Dianne Jacob, the Chair of San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors, told the California Public Utilities Commission that “gutting net metering” would short-circuit the adoption of solar. The fact the  utilities suggested this shows how “out of step they are with California and its energy needs.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s Statement

Supervisor Dianne Jacob Testifying before the CPUC on October 28
Supervisor Dianne Jacob Testifying before the CPUC in San Diego, on October 28 2015

This is the full text of her statement:

“I’d like to thank the Commission for taking the time today to hear directly from San Diego County residents about the importance of the existing net metering program.

Today, our local solar industry is booming. In the past 5 years, we’ve seen a 500% jump in residential solar permits – and that’s just in the unincorporated area of the County. Nearly 6,000 permits were issued in that area last year.

San Diego has become one of the leading solar markets in the world. The industry brings nearly $1 billion a year in economic activity to the region. It’s great for business, great for reducing our energy footprint and great for consumers.

Net metering is a big reason for that success. It’s a simple, popular program that provides financial incentives critical to encouraging home solar and the use of other renewables.

Drastically reducing the benefits of net metering would cripple the solar industry. It would be a huge setback for businesses and for consumers, who are hungry to do the right thing, reduce their energy footprint and cut costs.The desire is there; the market is there. Gutting net metering would short-circuit our momentum.

The fact that utility companies want to weaken it shows how out of step they are with California and its energy needs.

Mauzy Solar Energy in Imperial Beach
Mauzy Solar Energy installation in Imperial Beach, San Diego County – Courtesy of HERO PACE

At the County level, we continue to look for ways to encourage solar and other renewable energy. The County has won national awards for its efforts to ease the solar permitting process.

And last year, we launched our Property Assessed Clean Energy program, or PACE. The results so far have been impressive: Roughly $140 million in local projects have been funded and about 6,000 projects completed. PACE has led to the creation of more than 1,100 local jobs, adding $241 million to our local economy.

Incentives like these, along with net metering, have helped turn solar into a huge local industry. Weakening net metering would undermine that. It could alter the industry so drastically that San Diego County residents would no longer find solar a worthy investment.

I strongly urge the CPUC to extend net metering beyond its current cap. It’s the smart thing to do for industry, for consumers and for our energy future.

Sullivan Solar in Chular Vista
Sullivan Solar installation in Chular Vista, San Diego County – Courtesy of HERO PACE

In other words, lift the cap and extend net metering indefinitely!I also believe ratepayers who produce a lot of their own power should be paid the market rate for any leftover energy that goes into our electrical grid, and that rooftop solar should be counted toward the state’s 50% renewal energy mandate.

I have also sent a letter to President Picker outlining my position.

Thank you for your time.”

Renovate America, which runs the HERO PACE program in San Diego, confirmed that it had financed $140.4 million in San Diego County: $62.5 mil in energy efficiency renovations, $69.2 mil in solar, and $8.8 mil in water efficiency.

A Renovate America spokesperson added they do not take a position on net metering except to say that “Supervisor Jacobs is a visionary leader who is helping to advance the clean energy economy in San Diego and California. We appreciate her support of the PACE financing model and of the HERO Program.”

Top Photo Credit: ASI Solar installation in San Diego – Courtesy of HERO PACE

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