Groups petition Calif. commission to evaluate clean energy policy

LOS ANGELES, June 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy (CAUSE) today announced that Co-Chair Dr. Luis Pacheco has joined with leading public health, clean air, environmental justice and solar industry groups to request that the California Energy Commission (CEC) quantify the air quality and economic benefits associated withCalifornia’s “net energy metering” policy. The groups include lead petitioner American Lung Association in California, as well as Presente.org and California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).

Net metering provides solar consumers with fair credit for the energy they put back on the grid, which utilities then sell to other customers. Monopoly utilities in California and across the United States are trying to eliminate net metering in order to halt the consumer-driven popularity of rooftop solar.

A full list of petitioners is as follows: American Lung Association in California, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Brightline Defense Project, California Center for Sustainable Energy, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Solar Energy Industries Association, Coalition for Clean Air, Distributed Energy

Consumer Advocates, Environment California Research & Policy Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc., Local Energy Aggregation Network, Dr. Luis Pacheco , Presente.org, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association, and the Vote Solar Initiative.

“By driving the expansion of rooftop solar, net metering helps improve the quality of the air we breathe while creating jobs in our communities,” said Dr. Luis Pacheco, Medical Director of the Transitional Care Unit at California Hospital Medical Center and CAUSE co-Chair. “These were key considerations when net metering was adopted, and should be included in an assessment of the policy’s overall effectiveness.”

“Air pollution poses a serious threat to our state’s health. Powering our buildings with on-site clean, renewable energy instead of burning fossil fuels can help reduce harmful air pollution and lower energy costs at the same time,” said Strela Cervas, co-coordinator of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We should better understand the societal benefits associated with net metering before making policy changes.”

The requested study would supplement analyses of the more limited impact of net metering on non-solar ratepayers’ electric bills, and would include the following benefits:

  • Local job growth and increased employment throughout California
  • Increased local economic activity that generates tax revenue for state and local governments
  • Improved air quality through reduced need for fossil fuel power generation, including natural gas peaker plants
  • Reduced death and disease associated with fossil fuel power generation
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Lower wholesale market prices for electricity due to decreased demand
  • Improved grid security and reduced economic costs from power outages

“Solar benefits the grid, but it also benefits public health and the environment,” said Adam Browning, executive director of The Vote Solar Initiative. “It’s critical to incorporate these values into policymaking in order to get a complete and fair evaluation of our energy choices.”

Attention to these additional societal impacts comes at a time when Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) have begun to diverge from one another on the impact of net-metered solar on the grid.   For example, Gary Stern of Southern California Edison recently acknowledged in US News and World Report that expanded distributed solar generation results in “less need for new transmission lines as a result of local generation.” This admission contradicts an earlier, inaccurate assertion from David Rubinof PG&E, who told KQED that “solar customers really use the grid more intensively than non-solar customers.”

A ratepayer impact study conducted earlier this year by Crossborder Energy found that net metering will deliver net benefits of more than $92 million per year to California ratepayers.  The Crossborder study also excluded societal impacts.