The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Roger Lin, Center for Biological Diversity,
Malinda Dickenson, The Protect Our Communities Foundation,
Alex Formuzis, Environmental Working Group,

California’s Regressive Rooftop Solar Policy Appealed to State Supreme Court

The Center for Biological Diversity, The Protect Our Communities Foundation and the Environmental Working Group asked the California Supreme Court today to overturn the state’s new rooftop solar policy. The policy, which took effect April 15, significantly slashes the credit new solar users get for sharing extra solar energy with the grid.

Today’s appeal comes after the groups challenged the California Public Utility Commission’s December 2022 action and a state appeals court upheld the new rooftop solar policy last month.

“California utility regulators shouldn’t be untouchable and I’m hopeful the state’s highest court will agree,” said Roger Lin, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The commission shrugged off California’s climate goals, put rooftop solar’s benefits further out of reach of working-class families and gave another gift to corporate utilities. The appeals court wrongly deferred to these state regulators. This sets a dangerous precedent of endorsing utility talking points and torpedoing an essential tool to fight the climate emergency and environmental injustice.”

Today’s appeal to the state Supreme Court says the California Court of Appeal’s decision ignored state law, which requires the court to review the commission’s decisions as it would those of any state agency. The appeals court failed to apply its own judgment in reviewing the commission’s net-metering policy. Instead, the three-judge panel said it was deferring to the commission because a “deferential standard of review leaves no basis for faulting the Commission’s work.”

“Instead of upholding clear legislative mandates, the Court of Appeal erroneously deferred to the commission’s decision to put its regulatory thumb on the scale against solar energy for California’s families and businesses, which translates to higher electric bills for ratepayers and higher profits for the utilities,” said The Protect Our Communities Foundation’s Malinda Dickenson.

The new new-metering policy slashes customer credits by up to 80% for electricity generated on rooftops and sold back to the grid, which reduces the financial benefit of installing solar systems. This has crushed efforts to expand rooftop solar in California, particularly in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods, and led to huge layoffs in the solar industry. It also violates state law, which requires that any policies ensure the rooftop solar market keeps growing, particularly in environmental justice communities. The net energy metering rollback also goes against the United States’ recent global agreement at COP28 to triple renewable energy by 2030.

“It's absurd that the destiny of California's clean energy aspirations and the battle against the climate crisis is left to the discretion of five unelected members of the utility commission,” said Caroline Leary, general counsel and chief operating officer at Environmental Working Group. “We can only hope the state’s Supreme Court shares this sentiment. The prospects of California attaining Gov. Newsom’s ambitious emissions reduction goals are non-existent without a robust and expanding rooftop solar program. The CPUC’s disastrous decision at the behest of PG&E and the other monopoly utilities is the most significant setback imaginable in our pursuit of meeting these crucial benchmarks.”

For-profit utilities across the country are trying to gut rooftop solar programs because distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar, threaten the utility business model.

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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