The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Roger Lin

California Bill Would Expand Rooftop Solar to Working-Class Families


A bill to require the California Public Utilities Commission to consider the wider community benefits of rooftop solar was introduced today in the state Assembly. Assembly Bill 2256, sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and Environment California, is intended to unwind the commission’s 2023 net-metering policy that gutted the state’s rooftop solar industry.

“This bill will force state regulators to stop shirking their duty and consider renewable energy’s wide-ranging benefits so rooftop solar is available to everyone,” said Roger Lin, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The commission’s decision to tank the state’s rooftop-solar policy was a gift to corporate utilities and a gut punch to communities and our environment. We’re in a climate emergency, and it’s reckless for the commission to ignore the harm fossil fuels do to our health and environment when it’s making energy decisions.”

The prior net-metering rules were integral to helping California meet the state’s 2020 climate target. Yet in December 2022, the commission dramatically revised the program and slashed compensation for rooftop-solar investments, including for renters in disadvantaged communities. Since these changes took effect last April, rooftop-solar project sales have plummeted up to 85% and layoffs have been widespread.

The Center, The Protect Our Communities Foundation and the Environmental Working Group challenged the policy, but the commission and a state appeals court refused to reconsider it. In January the groups asked the California Supreme Court to overturn the policy.

The bill’s introduction comes as a new report celebrates the dramatic growth of rooftop-solar power over the past decade. The report, from Environment California Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, recommends policies to keep rooftop solar growing, including considering all of its benefits. These benefits include reducing fossil fuel dependence, easing strain on the grid during high electricity demand, increasing resilience to threats like extreme weather, and limiting the amount of land needed for clean energy — all at a steadily falling cost.

The California Air Resources Board has said the state needs to double its rooftop solar to meet California’s next climate targets, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030.

“How can we weigh the costs and benefits of rooftop solar without considering all the benefits to our health, our neighbors and what’s left of our open spaces?” said Lin. “This is not a zero-sum game. We can’t ignore our climate, the urgent need for energy justice, and the significant community benefits of rooftop solar and expect to have a fighting chance against climate change.”

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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