Sen. Block urges PUC to end uncertainty to solar industry as deadline nears; 3,000 local jobs, climate goals at stake

SAN DIEGO – Senator Marty Block today urged the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to provide certainty to the solar industry and its customers regarding changes to net energy metering (NEM) rates in a letter to PUC President Michael Picker.

More than 3,000 San Diego-area solar installation employees are facing an uncertain future as a deadline nears to establish a new NEM tariff by the PUC. The new tariff would be imposed when San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) reaches its limit to allow interconnected solar systems under the current NEM structure. The new tariff is expected to increase energy costs for consumers who install solar panels after the current cap is reached. The increase in costs to solar customers, and all ratepayers, is the result of AB 327 (2013) which Senator Block opposed.

The increasing installation demand and the likelihood that SDG&E could reach its NEM cap before the PUC adopts a new tariff, leaves consumers and solar companies unsure of which NEM tariff will apply to new customers. Uncertainty and higher costs have the potential to damage expansion of the solar industry as more consumers look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The solar industry in San Diego is currently thriving but an extension of current net-metering rules is needed until the new rules are adopted,” Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power said. San Diego residents continue to invest in our renewable energy future in growing numbers but this will come to an abrupt end if this issue is not adequately addressed. Given current market growth rates, an extension until March 1, 2016 is required or the consequences will likely be dire,” Sullivan added.

State Senator Marty Block’s letter urges the PUC to prevent uncertainty for both consumers and the industry by allowing current rates to continue for a modest 3-month period after the new tariff is established. A “grace period” would provide consumers and the industry with greater knowledge of the impact of the new tariff on solar installation contracts.

“Yesterday Pope Francis pressed Congress to be courageous and responsible in enacting legislation to combat global climate change and stated that we have ‘to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.’ California is a leader in innovative policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, the state must provide certainty to individuals and industries that invest in solar technologies for the health and environmental wellbeing of others,” Senator Block said.