Solana Beach resolution urges the state to keep solar panels accessible

Solana Beach City Hall
(File photo)

As the state considers changes to Net Energy Metering, the Solana Beach City Council approved a resolution Sept. 8 in support of making sure rooftop solar remains accessible for residents who want to install it on their homes.

Net Energy Metering allows customers to generate their own energy, typically through solar panels, and receive credit toward their bills for surplus energy they generate.

The California Public Utilities Commission is considering approximately 17 proposals to update the Net Energy Metering structure. One is a joint proposal from the big three investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. Opponents of their plan have been saying that it would make access to solar too expensive.

The Solana Beach resolution doesn’t advocate for or against any particular proposal, but urges the state to prioritize “access to all households, particularly of low-and-moderate income,” as well as encourage solar installation to help the state meet its climate goals.

“I think it’s really important for our net energy metering customers,” Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Kristi Becker said. “They’ve made a huge investment for our environment for all of us.”

The agenda item attracted public speakers from several different environmental groups throughout the region.

“Solana Beach and California have ambitious climate action targets that will not be met with utility-scale solar alone,” said Matthew Vasilakis co-director of the Climate Action Campaign. “We need to expand equitable access to solar, especially in communities of concern, to build resiliency, meet our climate goals and provide affordable clean energy options.”

Karinna Gonzalez, a policy advisor at Hammond Climate Solutions, added that “in order for the state of California to fight this climate emergency and meet the very critical climate targets set forth, rooftop solar needs to be able to grow sustainably and equitably.”

Joe Gabaldon, a public affairs manager for San Diego Gas & Electric, said that a third party study showed rooftop solar subsidies increase electricity bills for nonsolar customers. He also said there are several other groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, opining that the current Net Energy Metering system is “inequitable and in need of major updates.”

Many of the speakers, and opponents of the investor-owned utilities plan in general, have accused the three utility providers of pushing a plan that would increase their profits.

“I’d like to assure you that SDG&E and the other utilities do not profit in any way from updating the NEM program,” Gabaldon said. “While we’ve submitted a program in partnership with the other utilities, I can assure you our policy goals and intentions are to design a program that is more equitable for all customers, whether they can afford solar or not, while still encouraging investments in solar storage and also increase access to low-income families.”

Peter Zahn, a member of the city’s Climate Action Commission, said that the investor-owned utilities proposal would hinder the ability for the city and state to meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals and set more aggressive targets.

“All of this runs counter to the council’s declaration of a climate emergency,” he said.