The Solar Bill of Rights (SB 288) passed its first committee yesterday with a vote of 11-0. On the supporting side were over 50 organizations and individuals calling for the protection of the right to self-generate without undue barriers, red-tape or discriminatory charges by the local utility. On the other side were the utilities with a single talking point: cost-shift.
Sachu Constantine of Vote Solar was a key witness and spoke eloquently and forcefully about the absurdity of raising issues of cost-shift within the context of this bill. How is it any more a cost shift to generate your own energy from the sunlight that falls on your roof than it is to get your kid to turn off their bedroom lights? Consumers should not be penalized for buying less power from their local utility, whether that is from self-generation or conservation. That is the heart and soul of SB 288 and the fight for these basic protections is now on.
Despite the strong vote and clearing this first committee, the ability to pass this bill and put it on the governor’s desk will not be easy. Behind the scenes, the utility’s arguments about cost-shifting have surprising stickiness and power behind them. Legislators and their staff have been hearing about the cost of rooftop solar for so many years now, it is hard for them to see this technology differently. Even if the value of exported electricity is not being debated, the frame around the economics of those with solar and those without solar creeps into the debate. We have a lot of work to do to educate and push this bill to the finish line.
The bill still has at least five more steps before it makes it to the governor’s desk. Next up is Senate Appropriations committee in May, followed by a Senate floor vote in June.