Listen Up: The Fight for Fair Solar Electric Rates

$0.25/kwh – what a typical California homeowner pays for electricity (based on current PG&E rates at the U.S. average of 12,000 kwh/yr)
$0.12/kwh – what a typical California homeowner pays for Net Metered rooftop solar electricity (based on a 5 kw system installed at $3.75/watt) – what you can do right now to prevent utilities from killing rooftop solar

Rooftop solar electricity is half the price of utility-supplied electricity. No business can survive when their product is that overpriced. EXCEPT a monopoly.

As a monopoly, utilities are permitted to set their electric rates so that they earn a minimum 10% profit. Their reaction to cheaper rooftop solar is to bombard the public with misinformation (solar is for wealthy people), fear mongering (more solar will cause the grid to collapse) and dirty tricks (trust us, new electric rates are actually good for consumers). To make matters worse, this advertising and lobbying is paid for by electric ratepayers themselves.

Utilities haven’t been able to make rooftop solar illegal (although they have tried); instead, they have insidiously reduced the benefits of Net Metering by increasing fixed charges and reducing Net Metering rates. In Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada these attacks against rooftop solar have been so effective that many solar companies have laid off employees. Effectively, residential and commercial electric rates have gone up.

California is the next big battleground for rooftop solar. This battle is being fought at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), where utilities want to eliminate Net Metering. Utilities are proposing solar-only fees and charges that will double the paybacks for new customers (including existing customers who want to expand their systems).

Luckily, with 250,000 rooftop systems already in place and over 54,000 people working directly in the solar industry, California can resist this utility bullying. The California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) is the focal point for continuing the growth of affordable solar in the state, and Bernadette del Chiaro is CALSEIA’s Executive Director. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Bernadette explains the tactics that utilities are using, the reasonable arguments for continuing with retail Net Metering, and the actions that every reader and listener can take to support the growth of the rooftop solar industry.

Quick Tip: click on the link at to add your name to the rooftop solar petition.



About The Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don't have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we'll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices. 

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He's been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Lead image: Green microphone via Shutterstock

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