Policy can be hard to explain on Twitter, but #AB1139 is trying to tackle an important issue so let's give it a shot.

#CA chose in the 90s to invest in & encourage consumer #solar energy to meet power demand, lower prices by increasing supplies & achieve environmental goals. 1/
Whenever new tech comes out & there are no economies of scale, it’s often expensive. In the 80s my Ma was PISSED when Dad came home with microwave. He spent almost $500. Now you can buy one for under $60. /2

Solar is no different. That's why CA chose to create a local solar sharing program, called net metering, for people who were willing to install rooftop solar and share surplus power with their neighbors. Even with net metering, however, solar was still out of reach for many. /3
Ten years after creating net metering, following the Enron crisis, CA put in place direct incentives for solar, the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, to provide upfront rebates & further spur consumer adoption of rooftop solar. /4
But solar was still expensive & required you own a home or business. Though CA carved out 10% of the funds for low-income ratepayers (which is what low-income advocates asked for) most early adaptors of solar were relatively wealthy & yes, many, though not all, were white. /5
Today’s market is very different than 1995 & 2006. Now nearly 50% of solar adopters are in low-and-working-class neighborhoods. Hundreds of thousands of low-income renters are getting solar too! We're building it into all new homes & are creating equity within the marketplace. /6
Rooftop solar creates energy during peak sun hours, a time when CA's energy needs are highest. Not so much during evening & night hours, when solar energy cannot be created. This is why CA needs not only more solar power, but more solar-charged batteries. /7
As it has for solar, net metering can make solar-charged batteries more affordable for consumers, too. That’s a good thing as we are going to need to build a million solar-charged batteries over the next 9 years to meet clean energy goals.

Here’s how net metering works:

When solar customers need to buy energy, they pay a retail rate to their utility company. When they aren’t using the energy they create, utility companies buy it from them at a reduced rate - slightly below what they can sell it for. /9
Then the utility company sells that energy nearby, at full price, to the neighbors of the solar customer.

This localized process creates less wear & tear on utility lines (which is safer & saves everyone money)... /10
It also doesn't require that energy travel from far away (which is better for the environment: reduces greenhouse gases, saves open space), and it reduces the volatility of energy supply and demand. (Did someone say rolling blackouts?)

Absent these solar customers, utilities must purchase all their energy from centralized power plants. Utilities pay a wholesale rate (which is often quite cheap thanks to the decline in the price of solar panels, tied to the growth of rooftop solar, by the way!).

BUT even though wholesale prices are low, ratepayers don’t save $ when the utility buys from far-away power plants! Instead, we pay more because of the rising cost of delivering those electrons from power plants located hundreds of miles away from our cities & towns. /13
Then there are liability costs of wildfires resulting directly in greater reliance on these long-distance electrical lines (There are those damn rolling blackouts again, not to mention the burning of our state every year). /14
Over time, these costs add up.

Ratepayers are spending $9 billion this year alone on transmission and wildfire liability according to the CPUC.

$9 billion!!!

Now THAT is a cost shift.

This is where the value of rooftop solar comes in, thanks to net metering as a policy driving investment in rooftop solar.

Build local. Share with your neighbor. Keep the lights on. Stop burning down the state. Protect open space. Meet environmental goals more quickly.

Unfortunately, however, investor-owned utilities have an obligation to maintain their bottom line and make money for shareholders NOW, not just over time.

That means they HAVE to put PROFIT before people, property, and the environment – every time.

Take for example PG&E's failure to upgrade and maintain their infrastructure, resulting in loss of life and property up and down the state.

They won't spend the money for necessary safety measures because it cuts into their profits, unless the state requires them to.

Because of their negligence & greed, people literally burned to death.

To this day, the trust PG&E set up to compensate victims has failed to do much more than pay for consultants.


Sadly, CA has a history of being victimized by greedy Big Utilities. Remember the Enron energy scandal that led to the #recall of Governor Gray Davis?


Enron shut down a power plant to aggravate CA's energy supply problems with the aim of raising costs for energy that would need to be bought & relocated to meet demand. CA was subject to rolling blackouts & consumers had hefty surcharges. /21

The point is this: Renewable energy cuts into Big Utilities bottom line. They aren’t & won’t be good faith actors here.

This is why they fight rooftop solar & energy storage, just like they have been doing since I was a #CALeg staffer decade ago. I saw them do it. /22
Back to #AB1139 & this whole cost shift thing.

Solar is an investment. Even with incentives and NEM it takes years (sometimes well over a decade) for the costs to pencil out.

And that math is contingent upon the rates agreed upon at the time of installation. /23
If rates are changed later, those new costs are added to ongoing expenses related to the installation or home purchase. This would be unsustainable for people on fixed incomes or with low incomes.

Worst case scenario, people could fall behind & lose their homes.

More rooftop solar systems means fewer poles and wires need to be built to power that local community, which cuts into Big Utilities profits.

Because of this, utilities lose money when they have to pay solar customers a fair rate for their energy. /25
To avoid that profit loss, they are trying to pit solar users against non-solar users, all so they can keep us addicted to their monopoly system and they can keep earning more and more profits.

That is the cost shift.

Utilities fight against expanding solar, solar storage, micro grids & consumers going off grid, while gouging us with higher & higher electric prices. They can’t help themselves: Profit comes first.

We are all subsidizing utility companies who fight against rooftop solar.
Over time, NEM has been adjusted to improve the solar program for participants and balance out economies of scale.
Remember the microwave example?

Solar customers are becoming more diverse over time, and FINALLY solar is more available to low income and communities of concern than ever before.

Check out this study from Berkeley Labs, using U.S. Dept of Energy Data:


While slowly & not without its challenges, the system is doing what was intended - getting more solar out to more homes and more diverse communities.

California builds 400 solar roofs every day. That’s a natural gas power plant worth of rooftop solar every five months!

Recently, CA regulated under Title 24 that all new homes should be built with solar - even affordable housing!

However, there's a provision that basically says if the costs become prohibitive (given our challenging housing market), that the mandate would no longer apply. /31
This would mean less solar, and less of a chance of meeting the state’s environmental and energy demand goals. Obviously, that would be bad.

The shift to clean energy is already happening. Big Utilities just want to stop it.

All of these factors are at play when it comes to NEM.

That's why there is an effort at the PUC (the regulatory body with oversight) to adjust them yet again. But it's important it be done carefully & thoughtfully.

#AB1139 doesn't do that.

Here's what it does do:

#AB1139 directs utilities to pay solar customers (new & existing) the wholesale rate (an 80% reduction) for their energy.

This will make rooftop solar unaffordable & take us back to square one: solar only for the wealthy.

#AB1139 will increase housing costs which means the solar mandate will be eliminated. Bye bye solar & bye bye 2030 climate goals.

#AB1139 will will disproportionately harm existing Seniors & Disabled customers. People like my Ma (an SEIU 1000 member who retired early due to disability) & Dad (an Operating Engineer) who installed solar as part of their fixed income planning right before retiring.

Because solar has grown more affordable over time & is now used by low-and-middle-income families, some people could even lose their homes because they can no longer afford their loan.

But it's not just homeowners who will suffer under #AB1139.

Over 6,000 schools across CA have invested in solar.
#AB1139 will increase their costs and reduce available funding to classrooms.

This is why school advocates oppose #AB1139.

Farmers across CA have invested in solar.
#AB1139 will increase their operating costs and, in turn. increase the costs of agricultural goods.

This is why farmers oppose #AB1139.

Affordable housing is being built across the state with solar. #AB1139 will increase the costs to build these homes at a time when California is desperate for more housing.

This is why the affordable housing community opposes #AB1139.

#AB1139 is the wrong solution & will harm consumers, schools, the economy & environment.

As stakeholders work with PUC to make thoughtful changes to NEM, I encourage #CALeg to explore energy storage solutions & greater independence for solar customers from Big Utilities.

One might even ask why Big Utilities are allowed to charge a cost shift at all.

Why are we all, including our lowest income customers, subsidizing a private, investor-owned utility?

In the meantime, please vote no on #AB1139.

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