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California rooftop solar proposal sparks firestorm


A proposed decision that would upend California’s rooftop solar industry is pitting economic justice advocates against solar buildout supporters and fracturing its environmental movement.

The controversial proposal — which has now been postponed “until further notice” — would lower the incentives that homeowners receive for generating their own solar power and charge them to connect to the electric grid.

The fight illustrates that battles within the energy transition don’t always conform to typical ideological lines, and pose hard questions for advocates of both expanded clean energy and fighting economic inequality. 

The proposal, first unveiled in December by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), would alter its rooftop solar program by revising current “Net Energy Metering” (NEM) rules in such a way that “balances the needs of the electric grid, the environment and consumers,” a statement from the commission said. 

The plans have been met with wide ranging backlash — including from celebrities like Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskEntrepreneurs protect the economy; governments should invest in them Canadian premier calls truckers protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandate an ‘occupation’ Why is Putin so confident these days? MORE and Mark Ruffalo — who raise concerns it will stunt the state’s transition to clean energy. 

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) penned a recent New York Times op-ed warning that “California is about to take a big step backward.” Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomIs it time to recall the recall? Officials highlight mask requirement for fans at Super Bowl LA mayor says he was holding his breath during maskless picture with Magic Johnson MORE (D) told reporters that changes to the proposal needed to be made.

“I don’t think the commission appreciated the firestorm that their proposal was going to ignite,” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group, told The Hill. 

That firestorm, he explained, resulted from “the convergence of the public’s deep frustration with the big utilities” and what they felt would be a disruption to “one of the most successful elements of energy policy in the state.” 

The plans are so contentious, the CPUC removed a scheduled vote on the decision from its Jan. 27 meeting agenda. And on Thursday, the commission’s administrative law judge sent an email to a designated service list indicating that the proposed decision “will not appear on the Commission’s voting meeting agenda until further notice.”

A commissioner recently reassigned to the rulemaking “has requested additional time to analyze the record and consider revisions to the proposed decision based on party comments,” the email said, noting that the oral argument hearing will be rescheduled. 

The proposal in question, dubbed NEM 3.0, would decrease the payments that solar customers receive when they send the excess power they generate back to…


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