California Solar Rights Bill Up for March Hearing

California’s Solar Rights Bill, SB 288, is up for hearing as early within the next two months in the State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications, with the potential to be come law later this year. The bill would remove barriers to solar, including outdated tariffs and delayed connections to the grid, protecting the estimated 800,000 solar homes in the state, as well as potential adopters.

The legislation, sponsored by State Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff), defends solar consumers against the utilities in an unprecedented way. The California Solar & Storage Association, Vote Solar, and the Solar Rights Alliance cultivated broad-based support throughout the state for the legislation, introduced on February 13.

The Solar Bill of Rights, guarantees:

— Your right to make and store solar energy on your property without interference from the utility.
— Your right to connect your solar and storage to the grid quickly, without utility red tape.
— Your freedom from unfair fees that discriminate against you just for having solar.
— The Solar Bill of Rights will also expand the ability to share extra energy with the grid, and get a fair credit in return, Wiener said in a statement.

The bill was a long time coming. Part of the campaign to launch the bill stated, “For too long, the utilities have gotten away with attacks on our personal freedom to make and store solar energy. Today, you can stop the attacks on solar.”

The Solar Rights Alliance minced no words in terms of the need for the bill: “California’s monopoly utilities are waging a multi-pronged attack on our individual rights and our ability to put solar on our homes, our schools, our businesses. At stake is our freedom to cut the cord to ever-rising energy bills, and generate and store clean energy when and how we see fit.”

The Alliance added, “While California has led the nation on protecting the rights of private property owners and renters to go solar, these rights are not set in stone and are constantly under attack.”

“The bottom line: utilities are serious about holding onto their monopoly. One California regulator once warned that the utilities would like to ‘strangle rooftop solar if they could.’ We need to stop them,” the Alliance proclaimed.

CALSSA has worked for years on issues within the bill, and campaigned for voter influence on state senators. “The Solar Bill of Rights is our top priority. We are part of a coalition that is leading the charge. We are partnering with consumer advocates on the bill so it is not just a CALSSA bill, but we are heavily engaged,” says Bernadette Del Chiaro, the executive director of the organization.

The language of the bill itself in broad and inclusive. “Although known as the Solar Bill of Rights, SB 288 is technology neutral and applies to all renewable sources of energy and energy storage,” the authors said.

Fair net metering for solar and storage is one tenant of the bill. “Many consumers who install on-site energy storage systems and are connected to the electric grid may at times receive no compensation at all for the additional electricity they are storing and putting back into the grid during the times of day when it is most needed. Instead, these same consumers could later be charged for electricity that they themselves discharged onto the electric grid,” the bill authors charged.

“SB 288 requires the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Independent System Operator, and the board of publicly owned utilities around the state to update relevant tariffs to ensure fair compensation of these distributed energy resources (DERs),” the authors said.

The bill also aims to support the state goal of 100% renewable energy sources. “To meet our 100% renewable energy goal, we must make it easier for individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies to generate their own renewable energy. This legislation is about ensuring that we all have access to the benefits of solar and other sources of renewable energy,” said Wiener, at the introduction of the bill.

“When our public agencies put up barriers to make it harder and less attractive to install renewable energy, we’re all worse for it. California needs to move away from a purely centralized, monopoly approach to energy in California. If we’ve learned anything from our push toward 100% renewable energy and from the recent wildfire disasters, it’s that we need both a diversity of energy sources and more decentralized energy generation. We must make it easier and more affordable — not harder and more expensive — to install and use these technologies,” Wiener concludes. 


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