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Gov. Newsom: Forget PG&E crocodile tears; save rooftop solar

Jennifer Tanner is the director of Indivisible’s Green Team, which represents hundreds of Indivisible chapters across California.

Governor Newsom, you have a choice ahead of you in the coming days or weeks. The future of rooftop solar in California hangs in the balance. You can choose to do the right thing for our state, our environment and our planet. Or you can choose to side with PG&E, a monopoly utility that’s a convicted felon and who a judge recently called a “continuing menace” to the state of California.

Last year in the recall election you ran on a platform of being the responsible candidate who trusted facts over fiction. We believed you when you said that you were committed to fighting climate change.

And yet, today, I’m becoming a little worried. Solar panels now sit on 1.3 million rooftops in the state and have the potential to be on millions more rooftops, but not unless you stand up to the utilities and their apparent stranglehold over the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Indivisible knocked on doors for you. We worked the phones. We thought you were on our side.

Let’s revisit some of the facts: In 2018, Governor Brown signed into law one of the most progressive climate fighting laws in the country, SB 100, with a target to produce 100% clean energy by 2045. Just this year California’s regulatory agencies, including the CPUC, wrote a report about the best way for California to reach this target. They concluded “to reach the 2045 target, California will need to roughly triple its current electricity power capacity.” This includes increasing customer-sited solar from 8 GW to 28 GW by 2045. More than triple our current amount.

These ambitious targets are wishful thinking if the CPUC caves to utility interests and effectively taxes people for putting solar on their rooftops. The CPUC is attempting to do a wholesale rewrite of the rules that will make it harder to access solar or storage solutions. Take, for example, the average $57 monthly charge that would be imposed on new solar customers if this proposed decision becomes final on February 10th. That’s a nearly $700 fee that solar families would need to pay to the utilities. No middle or working class family can get solar under that arrangement.

With your encouragement in January, California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) temporarily tabled its proposal to weaken consumer incentives for conversion to rooftop solar electricity. But now opponents and supporters of a rooftop rollback are ramping back up their lobbying efforts to pass the proposal.

Utilities say that they oppose rooftop solar because of something called a “cost shift.” Well, Governor Newsom, would it surprise you to learn that the hyper-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been claiming this same thing for years? Furthermore, non-utility funded modeling has found that tripling rooftop solar and batteries in California would save ratepayers $120 billion by 2050. The utilities’ purported cost-shift is not only promoted by ALEC, it’s factually inaccurate.

Governor Newsom, we campaigned for you, knowing that while a Governor has to make many hard decisions, that you were the right person for the job. As you often say, California has the 5th largest economy in the world. We’re nearly a nation state, so what we do matters not just on a national, but a truly global scale. Not only would this have a chilling effect on the rooftop solar market in California, it would also slow down our progress in fighting climate change.

That’s why I’m imploring you to make the right decision and reject the CPUC’s solar tax, and make solar more affordable for all consumers, not less. It’s down to the wire now and you need to stand by your word. Don’t put this off until after the election. Don’t buy into the utility arguments. They’ve caused wildfires and blackouts, which is why people are turning to local solar and batteries. Individuals are fighting climate change at home. Don’t let the CPUC take away their ability to do this.

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