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Grassroots Solar Initiative Builds Traction in Battle Against Utility Monopolies

Activists fight to protect California’s fastest-growing industry with Save Our Solar

Legislation that threatens solar producers and industry alike has garnered much media attention recently due to grassroots efforts of individuals and organizations who have banned together to fight a bill backed by California’s three investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). Assembly Bill 327 (AB327), introduced by Fresno Assembly member Henry Perea, would restructure rates and strip away protections solar producers currently have in place.

 

Last week, Sierra Club San Diego and local solar industry representatives organized a protest to AB327 in front of Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). Speakers included San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood and Sierra Club San Diego chair Lori Saldana.

 

“This {bill} will discourage people from putting solar on their roofs. It will discourage energy conservation measures and policies at the state which have been in place for 20 years,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob at last week’s protest, “It’s a big step backwards.”

 

Over 2,565 individuals have signed a MoveOn.org petition asking California Governor Jerry Brown and the California State Senate to oppose AB327 unless amended to protect solar generators. The petition, which was launched just over a week ago, also asks to remove the proposed $120 annual fixed fee for all investor-owned utility rate payers. Environmental justice groups, Latino political groups and elected officials have publicly opposed the rate reform bill.

 

California leads the nation in solar power as well as other environmental initiatives such as setting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Assembly Bill 327 would change the current net-energy metering protections for the 150,000 homeowners, businesses, cities and schools who have gone solar, as well as all future solar energy producers. Solar advocates insist that Governor Brown’s 12,000 Megawatt goal of rooftop solar would not be met if the proposed bill is passed through the Senate in its current form.

 

“The changes proposed by AB327 to net metering threaten the foundation for rooftop solar,” said Nathan Meyers, San Diego homeowner who went solar earlier this year, “For me, it turns my solar investment from one that should pay back before I retire into an expensive loss.”

 

With over 2,200 solar companies in the state of California, the solar industry prides itself on being state’s fastest-growing industry. Companies across the state are devastated by the negative impact that the legislation could have on their customers and business models.

 

“I am gravely concerned for my existing customers, employees and the California solar industry. Over 44,000 statewide jobs are at stake,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power, and founding board member of San Diego California Solar Energy Industries Association. “Assembly Bill 327 needs be amended to simply seek to maintain the existing legal statues and protect solar producers from being unfairly targeted.”

 

Solar advocates that oppose the bill as currently written have created a grassroots advocacy web site (http://www.saveoursolar.com), with a petition that targets State Senators urging them to kill the bill unless it is amended to protect solar.

 

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