San Diego Stands Up for Solar Against Bully SDG&E

Surprise Bag


HES Solar President, Martin Learn and I (H.E.S. Marketing Manager) attended the CPUC Council Meeting in downtown San Diego on Wednesday. The community members in attendance (more than 500) were anything but lacking in passion where the majority of the attendees were there in favor of preserving the current NEM tariff and in vibrant support of preserving not only the existence but the growth of the solar industry. The meeting was held to try to come to some resolution between the gap of the Current NEM and what is known as NEM 2.0 which will eventually be the new billing system attributed to rooftop solar adopters. The problem is that San Diego, being filled with money savvy, environmentally conscious people in an area of abundant sunshine, is set to reach the solar adoption cap of 5% that was intended to trigger the change from NEM 1 to NEM 2.0 sooner that anticipated (originally the cap was set at 2.5% but was altered when the cap began to approach too rapidly). This leaves the market full of uncertainty because NEM 2.o has NOT been defined and numbers presented in the meeting predict the cap will be reached anywhere between March and July of 2016. In any case much sooner than the December of 2017 originally anticipated timeframe. That’s just a few months from now.

The UNCERTAINTY is the problem for 2 major reasons. 1) It is causing a disruption in the solar industry because homeowners, schools and businesses alike have solar plans on hold because they do not know what buying solar entails. It’s like asking people to buy or, even more asinine, to finance a $30,000.00 surprise bag and just hope that there’s something good inside. Just how many businesses, schools and government agencies that have solar projects in the hopper really came to light at this meeting. Attendees were given the chance to speak after the meeting where among others, School officials, Naval Engineers, Attorneys representing districts had something to say about how their solar projects were affected by this Uncertainty Gap. We’re not talking kWs of projects but multiple MW of solar in limbo due to this uncertainty.

Near the official meeting’s close, the President of the CPUC, Michael Picker, directly asked the SDG&E representative if they could commit to a sensible and simple solution of extending the current NEM until NEM 2.0 is implemented. I tell you, I have not witnessed so much sidestepping since I saw the popular 2004 Ben Stiller Film DodgeBall. Sarah Palin and this SDG&E representative must have had the same teacher in blatantly obvious and embarrassingly bad attempts to not answer the question at all. Gracefully, President Picker stayed Clandestine Transparencyvigilant and pinned her down to the effect that SDG&E committed to nothing other than to make themselves look severely disingenuous. The meeting as a whole came to no other certain conclusion than SDG&E has fallen to the Dark Side holding profits supreme above the wellbeing of local commerce, global warming, society, environment, and technologicaladvancement; all under the guise of saving non-solar customers money.

As one speaker put it,“we are at a transition point where SDG&E would have us hold onto a 19th century technology for producing energy with fossil fuels in lieu of contemporary clean renewable energy technologies.” Why would we not, oh yeah, PROFITS.

But I digress, only a fool would invest in $30K surprise-bag or such an uncertain investment. I don’t blame people for throwing on the brakes. Fore after all, solar is a decision primarily incented as a financial investment but, it’s so much more than that. While supporting the proliferation of solar is an investment in one’s business or home, it’s also an investment in a healthy tomorrow, for humankind, our environment our kids and our kids’ kids. Still if the financial incentive is obliterated, then what will the long term affects be on our economy, our energy goals, our planet? These are the questions many people posed in making public comment.

2) FEAR is the other product of the UNCERTAINTY. It is starting to surmount largely based on the aggressive NEM 2. proposal submitted by SDG&E. People fear the big money conglomerate is making a play to crush solar as a viable industry all together. If their proposal were to be accepted as is, it would succeed. The council meeting revealed that this was exactly the case in Arizona when they changed their NEM policy. Adoption of solar dropped upwards of 90% after the new tariff was implemented. Again, if this happens what are the long term repercussions other than increased profit for Sempra Energy.

Many other interesting things came to light during the meeting through public comment and testimony. For instance, the tripled profits SDG&E has experienced in recent years and how SDG&E claims they’re fighting for equality of all clients while imposing a connection fee to solar producers ONLY. Some other interesting points made that support SOLAR SUBSIDIZES SDG&E include the vast amount of energy infrastructure that solar energy producers paid to create that SDG&E did not have to pay for yet, still benefits from or how solar adopters deposit energy surpluses during peak use time which benefits SDG&E by avoiding brownouts and heavy demand loads. And how a plethora of schools throughout the county with solar produce megawatts worth of energy and as are not in operation during summer months, almost all energy produced during that time goes back to the grid (some 54 schools in the San Diego).

SDG&E claims that solar is subsidized by the non-solar user but I’ve never seen a line item charge, a fiscal analysis is in order or at the very least some substantiation of the claim that it’s being subsidized. It seems more like a strategic ploy to divide and conquer by pitting solar system owners against non-solar owners when in reality everyone benefits from clean energy. The arguments and tangible fiscal evidence tell the story that SDG&E is being subsidized by solar as NEM stands and moreover, is looking to dig deeper into the pockets of, as one citizen introduced himself, the “rooftop energy producers”. In fact, the CPUC sponsored and administered an analysis that showed the NEM as is provides a net benefit to the grid.

With no lack of passion from solar proponents there is still no answer; all we can do is wait. However, you and I can help save rooftop solar by building awareness (please post and share this article) and like articles AND by writing a letter or signing a petition to show your support for the solar industry. To see more public comments made by citizens at attendance at the CPUC meeting look for our postSan Diego Solar Sentiment.