Posted: 05/22/2012 12:15 pm
Executive Director, The Sierra Club
Very quietly, California utilities are threatening to undermine the dream of widespread clean energy in our state. If this happens, the state will lose jobs, our booming solar industry will suffer a major setback, and our progress at cutting emissions and displacing dirty energy will stop in its tracks.
At issue is a proposed ruling that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is slated to consider Thursday, May 24, which would increase the number of rooftop-solar installations that qualify for "net metering." Net metering is like the rollover credits on your cellphone. It enables utility customers with solar panels connected to the grid to receive full credit for all of the electricity they produce. Excess power generated during sunny daylight hours gets fed back to the grid, and the customers earn a credit that helps offset their electricity costs during the times when they're using more power than they are generating.
Net metering is fair, and it's a critical part of the equation for making rooftop solar installations affordable for thousands of homeowners and small businesses. Thanks in large part to net metering, California has one gigawatt of customer-owned clean energy (over 100,000 rooftop solar systems). In addition, clean energy fed back onto the grid by net-metered systems makes it possible for California to turn off more "peaker" power plants -- the state's dirtiest and least-efficient -- which are typically powered by diesel or gas and sited near poor neighborhoods.
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