Utility companies are using AB 1139 to kill CA’s rooftop solar industry. Our legislators are letting it happen!

We just called our assemblymember’s office and we’re told they are studying this NOW! Get on the phone. Email them too. Make sure they know that this is important to us.

Action #1: How many ways can we say “NO” to AB-1139?

This bad legislation just slid through the Assembly Appropriations Committee! Make sure your assemblymember AND YOUR STATE SENATOR are prepared to do the right thing and bring it down!

(from Indivisible CA Green Team) Consumers suffer when power is concentrated in the hands of a few. This was the lesson learned from the 2000 electricity crisis and out of that grew California’s commitment to consumer solar and localized energy. However, the potential for additional revenue is forcing us to repeat history as lobbyists for PG&E, SDG&E AND SoCal Edison are telling Sacto politicians that our solar is the reason why utility bills are skyrocketing. Investor-owned utilities like P,G&E are threatened by this people-centered movement cutting into their profits, so they’re making up lies to justify killing our solar, even though it is the solution to rising utility bills, power outages, and wildfires. 

Over the past two decades, hundreds of thousands of Californians have invested in rooftop solar to combat climate change, lower energy bills, and invest in local communities. Working class communities have embraced it as a no-brainer solution to wildfires, blackouts, and rate increases. The state encouraged these investments via policies like net metering, which allows more Californians to afford rooftop solar by letting them share their extra energy with their neighbors for a bill credit.

In 2018 alone, rooftop solar and energy efficiency prompted the state to scale back more than 20 power line projects, saving $2.6 billion. Maximizing rooftop solar could save American households nearly $500 billion over the next thirty years, while doubling down on our overreliance on long-distance power lines could cost Americans $350 billion.

So our energy utilities, best known for gross mismanagement, costly investments, and an insatiable appetite for increasing profits, are pushing AB 1139, a legislative bludgeon which would not only kill rooftop solar for low and middle-class households by gutting net metering, but also by retroactively changing the rules on the one million homes and businesses who invested in solar roofs over the past fifteen years, ruining those investments. These corporations want to add $50-86 monthly solar fees, while lowering the financial value of the rooftop solar energy exported to the grid by more than 80%. (This

Everyone in California deserves to have access to clean, safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy. There is no question that continuing to grow community-based rooftop solar and energy storage is key to this future. The utilities have an enormous amount of power in the Legislature. We’re really worried that the bill will pass. We have to stop it, or risk screwing up all of the clean energy goals California has been fighting for.

Make sure your CA legislators know exactly how you feel about this.

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Assemblymember/Senator [___] to vote “NO” on AB 1139. This bill is an attempt by the utilities to kill rooftop solar and grab more profits for themselves. Net Metering helps every one and I expect the Assemblymember to vote against AB 1139. What is their position on this bill?

Contacts:

  • State Senator Monique Limón (SD-19): SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940 email
  • State Assemblymember  Steve Bennett (CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
  • Not your people?: findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

Action #2: Sign “Save California Solar’s” petition to Governor Newsom.

Join us in telling Governor Newsom to stand up to the utilities! Sign this petition here.

Need more information?

  • Fact sheets here, here and here for a deeper dive. 
  • (SaveCASolar)Building Blocks for Equitable Rooftop Solar and Storage Growth (Eng. & Spanish)
  • (Calmatters) Utilities are trying to stymie rooftop solar in California
  • (LATimes) Boiling Point: How rooftop solar could save Americans $473 billion
  • (SFChronicle) CA eyes rooftop solar policy changes.
  • (San Diego) Debate over changing rooftop solar rules in California

(Desert Sun) “If politicians wanted to kill rooftop solar energy production in California, they could not find a better vehicle than a proposed new law known as Assembly Bill 1139.

This is a brainchild of Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, previously best known for authoring AB 5, another destructive bill she pushed into law in 2019 only to see her legislative colleagues a year later rescind many of its onerous provisions. AB 5 was despised especially by folks it was supposed to help.

The newest Gonzalez project is — like AB 5 — a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Where AB 5 originally required companies using contract workers to convert them to regular employees who could then be unionized, AB 1139 purports to stabilize conditions for California residents installing solar panels atop their homes.

AB 5 caused or threatened to cause an end to the jobs of thousands of Californians, from freelance writers to court reporters to musicians. Similarly, AB 1139 would likely stifle rooftop solar installations around the state, home to about half of all such projects nationally.

Here are four things AB 1139 would do in the name of bettering home-based solar power:

  • It would end the state’s current policy of requiring electric utilities to ensure that “customer-sited generation continues to grow sustainably.” That’s a massive change in state policy.
  • It would concentrate all renewable energy efforts in the hands of big utilities including California’s largest utility, which has been convicted of corporate crimes as serious as manslaughter.
  • It would end the current guarantee to homeowners who install solar that net metering will remain stable for 20 years after systems go in. This means the price homeowners get for excess energy they contribute to the general electric grid will drop.
  • And it calls on the scandal-ridden state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create new net metering rules within two years to set payments to solar owners for excess power at the level currently paid for wholesale power. That, say solar advocates, would cut payments to homeowners who install solar by about 80 percent…”

The following is an excerpt of a letter sent to Asm. Santiago, who appears to be on the wrong side of this issue.

AB 1139 would kill rooftop solar

We want to reiterate that AB 1139 is a utility profit grab to kill rooftop solar. We must be very blunt with you about this point. The bill is based on a false premise, and it contains provisions that will absolutely spell the end of rooftop solar in California. 

Here is a general fact sheet on the bill, and a letter from the California Democratic Renters Caucus. We include the latter to help illustrate one of our main points — AB 1139, contrary to the author’s claim, is bad for low-income people and renters. 

The bill’s author will likely argue the bill doesn’t kill solar but rather, sets a bottom line policy should the CPUC not act on net metering by February 2022. This is disingenuous and we want to be very clear about what the bill, as amended, does:

  1. It formally reverses state policy, ending California’s commitment to ensure the sustainable growth of rooftop solar.
  2. It establishes an official default net metering policy for the State of California that is almost exactly what the utilities have proposed to the CPUC:
    • A discriminatory fee on all solar users
    • An 80% reduction in the net metering credit
    • Reneging on the 20 year protection the state has provided to existing solar investments – all solar users will be affected by AB 1139 in the next one to nine years. 

If this bill becomes law, there is no way the CPUC will ignore these default provisions. The CPUC will almost certainly adopt a net metering program aligned with the new default state policy, which is, again, exactly what the utilities have proposed to the CPUC. That will be the end of the solar market in California, putting a million investments upside down. Also, it will mean the state’s plan to get to 100% clean energy will fail, since it counts on rooftop solar adoptions tripling between now and 2045. 

Utilities were successful in implementing this in Nevada and it was so unpopular it was reversed the next year. I hope you do not vote against rooftop solar for  California  now that you have been educated about the faulty arguments. 

The state of solar in Assembly District 53

There are two key things to understand when looking at solar in your district:

  • Utilities are trying to kill solar just as it’s taking off in working class communities. The fact sheet spells out how solar is already serving 150,000 CARE accounts. Meanwhile just under half of all solar is in working and middle class neighborhoods. The utilities and the bill author are likely telling you something different but their stats are crooked. 
    Your district is mostly LADWP and the state does not collect statistics on municipal solar adoptions in a way that is easy to obtain and compare with IOU data. That said, we know there are over 1,000 So Cal Edison rooftop solar installations in District 53. There are likely many more solar installs in the muni territory. As of 2019, and 555 local, in-district solar jobs as of 2017 – so obviously there must be many many more than 1,000 installations!
    We also know there are ten existing, sizable affordable multi-family solar installations in the district, and 174 multi-family developments that would be excellent candidates for rooftop solar. Here’s a link to a fact sheet from Sunrun outlining the potential for affordable multi-family home solar development in AD 53
  • Just those 1,000 SoCal Edison solar rooftops produce 20 MWs of local, clean energy, which is the equivalent of two gas plants. A typical “peaker” gas plant produces 50 MW. 
    Rooftop solar in AD 53 is the quickest way to retire the fossil fuel plants in low-income neighborhoods that are polluting the lungs of our most vulnerable children.

The “cost shift” is a utility lie

The “cost shift” is a utility lie to hide their own faults and instead scapegoat rooftop solar. This year ratepayers will be charged $4 billion for long distance power lines, and $5 billion for wildfire mitigation. Utilities profit by building more power lines. This is what drives high energy bills. Even the CPUC has admitted that the utilities are incentivized to build more power lines whether the cost is justified or not. 

Meanwhile, rooftop solar reduces power line spending. The fact sheet outlines sources for this. That may not be good for utility profits, but it is excellent for all ratepayers. 

The utility cost shift claim is based on twisted methodology. Assemblymember Santiago, you must know by now that the CPUC is a den of corruption. The studies they rely on are part of the utilities’ echo chamber. This includes the consulting firm E3 and includes the Haas Berkeley Energy Institute. We can happily unpack their methodologies and we think you would agree their numbers are questionable. 

Bottom line: this is a litmus test for the state’s commitment to its climate change goals, to stopping power outages and reducing people’s energy bills

Rooftop solar is a really important part of California’s future. AB 1139 is playing with fire — literally. Please stand on the right side of history here. 

Best Regards,

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