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Run on Sun Monthly Newsletter

Run on Sun - the source for Pasadena Solar Power

In this Issue:

June, 2021

Volume: 12 Issue: 6

Against the Odds: AB 1139 Defeated!

Last month in this space we wrote about a bill, AB 1139, that was on a fast track in the State Assembly and which, if passed, would have decimated the rooftop solar industry.  Moreover, it would have seriously diminished the value of every residential, commercial, and non-profit solar installation in the state.  We laid out the case against AB 1139, and begged you to take action.

And boy did you!  Thanks to your collective efforts, AB 1139 was defeated!

From the CALSSA email describing  the victory:

A grassroots coalition, including groups like Solar Rights Alliance, Environment California, Indivisible, and many others, including all of YOU — CALSSA‚Äôs over 600 member companies — stepped up and generated tens of thousands of phone calls, literally shutting down phone lines, to fight this bill! This was the magic mix of organizations and individuals that overcame the special interest power of the utilities in the state Capitol.

Wow! Tens of thousands of phone calls! That is grassroots activism at its best! [Insert your favorite David vs Golith meme here!]

We have more work to do, and we will get to that shortly, but it is important to realize what a significant victory this was, and it shows that we have real power when we get organized and take advantage of it.

Bravo - and thanks! 

“That is grassroots activism at its best!”

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Trouble Brewing at the CPUC

I hope you enjoyed your victory lap, but now it is back to the demanding task of defending rooftop solar.

AB 1139 was an attack out of the blue that we were able to collectively defeat - but it was never supposed to be the main event.  As we have explained before, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was already set to release the next set of rules governing net metering.   (You can read my blog post about that process here.)  While AB 1139 would have guaranteed that the Investo-Owned Utilities  (IOUs) got their intended result even without the CPUC's support, the IOUs are fully engaged in their efforts to make these next rules as onerous as possible.  In particular, here is a sampling of elements that they are pressing before the CPUC:

  • The highest solar fees in America, charging a typical residential consumer an unavoidable fee of $78 per month on average just to have solar on their roof.
  • Non-residential customers would also be hit with huge fees. A typical school, for example, wanting to invest in solar would be charged an unavoidable $950 monthly fee in PG&E territory, $1,100 in Southern California Edison territory, and $3,400 per month in the San Diego area. 
  • Reduces the credit consumers receive for surplus solar electricity sent back to the grid on hot summer days by 77%. This means that when a solar user shares electricity with their neighbor, the utility will charge the neighbor 25 cents while giving the solar user 5.7 cents in bill credits. 
  • In addition to the new fees and cuts, the IOU proposal would also require monthly true-ups, preventing consumers from carrying forward their unused credits from month to month.

I know what you are thinking - surely nothing like this could ever be put in place, not here, not in sunny, progressive California! 

Think again.

AB 1139 was defeated because we brought massive pressure to bear on our individual Assemblymembers.  Like all elected officials, the pay attention when their constituents speak out - that's how they keep their jobs, after all.

But the Commissioners on the CPUC are unelected bureaucrats, who don't have constituents to whom they must answer.  Indeed, they are almost completely anoymous, subject to precious little public scrutiny. (When was the last time you heard a news report that named any of them?  Me neither.)  

But let's change that, shall we?  Here they are, in all their glory (with links to their full bios):

NameAppointmentPhoto
Marybel Batjer, PresidentMarybel Batjer was named President of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on July 12, 2019, by Governor Gavin Newsom and sworn in on August 16, 2019. On December 30, 2020, Governor Newsom reappointed her as President. Her term ends January 1, 2027.
Martha Guzman AcevesMartha Guzman Aceves was appointed Commissioner at the CPUC by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on Dec. 28, 2016. Her term ends in 2023.
Clifford RechtschaffenClifford Rechtschaffen was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission by Governor Jerry Brown in January 2017. His term ends in 2024.
Genevieve ShiromaGenevieve Shiroma was appointed to the CPUC by Governor Newsom on Jan. 22, 2019. Her term ends in 2026.
Darcie L. HouckCommissioner Darcie L. Houck was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) by Governor Gavin Newsom on Feb. 9, 2021. She formerly served as Chief Counsel for the California Energy Commission since 2019.

Tellingly, there are no email addresses or phone numbers listed for any of these Commissioners on the website.  Funny that.

So how do we get our voices heard?  Keen observers will have already realized that the one thing these five folks all have in common is that they were appointed by the Governor - either Brown or Newsom. And it is at that leverage point that the campaign to Save California Solar is focused.  While he cannot tell the CPUC what to do, his leadership - assuming we can summon it - would certainly have an impact.  

Our campaign to influence Governor Newsom is fully engaged with more than 30,000 people signing on.  Are you one of them?  If so, great; stick around there will be more asks soon.  But if not, now is the time to stand up for California Solar.  It's easy - just:

SMASH THIS LINK 

and sign the petition.  We beat AB 1139, we can win this fight as well as long as we have you onboard. 

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The Shame: CPUC to Publicly List Contractors Violating Consumer Protection Rules

Two years ago we wrote about the rollout of the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide that contractors were supposed to provide to their clients, prior to signing a contract. The Guide is not a contractor-friendly document, requiring consumers to slog through 23 pages, initial four and sign on the last page.  Moreover, the tone of the document is consistently suspicious, implying to consumers that their solar contractor might just be a crook.  Lovely.

At the time we asked, who will this deter?  After all, we reasoned, a company that was willing to lie to consumers to induce them into a sale, would have no qualms about forging signatures on a document that they would never provide to that consumer.  Well guess what, apparently that sort of shady behavior is what has been going on.  Shocking!

So now the CPUC has decided to see if they can shame the shameless. From CALSSA's announcement of the decision:

The Commission will maintain a public list of contractors found to be violating consumer protection rules, which mostly relate to proper distribution of the Consumer Guide. The CSLB may also ask the Commission to place contractors on the watch list for failing to include required information in the customer contract...

The public list will be updated quarterly by the Commission. Those placed on it will remain on the list until the end of the full quarter after which they were initially placed on the list. Additionally, contractors placed on the watch list will have their first ten interconnection applications reviewed manually by the respective IOU in whose territory the contractor is on the watch list for compliance with consumer protection requirements. The IOU will do manual review of an additional ten interconnection applications for each successive quarter that the contractor remains on the watch list.

It remains to be seen how public this shame list will be, or whether the general public will even know that it exists.  But maybe, just maybe it will have some positive benefit to consumers, and by extension, those who are trying to do things right for this industry.  Fingers crossed. Watch this space.

“So now the CPUC has decided to see if they can shame the shameless…”

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