California pushes a new plan to cut rooftop solar incentives that’s already drawing complaints from solar companies and environmentalists.
Proponents of the bill say it’s needed to give the state’s utilities time to make sure they are competitive. The bill passed the Assembly by a narrow margin Monday and is now on the governor’s desk.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill after it was first introduced by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. That bill would have limited how utilities could modify their rates and fees.
The bill passed Monday creates a commission of community representatives and solar companies that would review rooftop solar incentives and would decide whether the rates should be changed. The new bill would also give utilities extra time to make sure they’re in line with electricity demand in the state through 2017.
A bill introduced two days ago by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Tulare, would have created a separate commission to reduce energy prices to consumers and would have set aside 5 percent of annual rates to finance new renewable power projects.
All 20 members of the solar panel industry were invited to testify at Monday’s hearing, and they largely opposed the plan.
“I’m concerned that legislators are making a mistake that they do not understand the solar industry, or else they’re setting a bad precedent,” said John Matson, president of the California Solar Energy Industries Association.
He said the current rate structure — for example, he said, for rooftop solar owners, paying the utilities a portion of their bill or for solar systems on the roof that benefit the energy grid — is not sustainable.
“We need to get to a system that is really sustainable for all of us, not just a small group of people, and this bill does not do that,” he said.
Matson said the bill’s proposed incentives aren’t sustainable and may drive up costs for consumers but would hurt solar businesses in the long run.
“What’s happened to our industry through the years is that we’ve had to fight against a bad decision in Sacramento — and that bad decision is a bad decision that has put Californians in the position they are in today,” he said.
He said the state’s new plan “is really just another bad decision” by lawmakers.
“That’s an easy decision, but let’s ask ourselves why this industry has not taken a better position on this decision, and we’ve been successful