Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle

If you have solar panels on your roof — or hope to someday — you want to watch the critical decisions that the California Public Utility Commission soon will make. At stake are the incentives for you to generate your own electricity.

Mark Ferron, one of five California Public Utilities commissioners, delivered a powerful warning to Californians about the battle for local renewable energy. He called the new law, Assembly Bill 327, a “poisoned chalice.” Californians won’t have Ferron watching out for them, though, as he recently left the commission because of illness.

Although wrapped in complexity, the law is simple at its core. The utilities are changing the rules to make customers with solar panels pay more for electricity service.

Legislators passed the law last year and then sent it to the commission to work on the details. Ferron wrote, “The commission will come under intense pressure to … protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness.”

PG&E has a staff of 350 and a budget of $74 million a year for legal and regulatory work. With such arsenals, PG&E and other investor-owned utilities bury the commission, the Legislature and anyone else who gets in their way under mountains of paper. They insert policy changes into all corners of regulatory proceedings. This death by a thousand cuts is difficult to fight. Commissioner Ferron recognized this when he wrote, “You — my fellow commissioners — all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation.”

Why do utilities fight clean energy? To protect their bottom line. It is out of fear that they will lose their energy monopolies when customers generate their own power. It is out of disregard for the climate crisis. Clean energy is in their crosshairs. Commissioner Ferron said that the utilities would “dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could.”

Even for organizations like ours that avoid fighting and polarization, this issue is too important for us to remain silent. We must stand up to the utilities now and stop their backward proposals. We must have electric rates that incentivize customers to feed renewable power into the grid. We must encourage battery storage, customer choice and other transformative opportunities. California is a clean-energy leader — a role we must strengthen, not weaken. We care about this because so much is at stake. Future generations are counting on us.

What you can do
Let the commission know your views.
Write the California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Or submit your comments via www.cpuc.ca.gov.

By Ann Hancock