California: New group formed to defend net metering


Debate has been intensifying in regions where high levels of residential rooftop photovoltaics are impacting on electricity utility revenue models, such as in parts of Australia and California. The CAUSE coalition has been formed in the U.S. state to push back against utility attempts to wind up net metering for solar households. CAUSE stands for Californians Against Utilities Stopping solar Energy.

Los-Angeles area physicians Luis Pacheco and Deonza Thymes will co-chair CAUSE and they are arguing in support of net metering for rooftop photovoltaics on public health grounds. They say that increases in rooftop solar means healthier communities.

"I grew up in a part of Los Angeles that is affected disproportionately by dirty air," said co-Chair Deonza Thymes, in a statement announcing CAUSE’s launch. "I became a physician, in part, to help people with health conditions caused by pollutants. Now that we are making progress with solar, the utilities are trying to turn back the clock. They should be helping to give Californians the choice to go solar."

Solar leasing and installation companies Sunrun and SolarCity have joined CAUSE.

California utilities PG&E, SDG&E and SCE have been lobbying to bring net metering for solar customers to an end, the CAUSE statement says. CAUSE argues that such a measure would result in less solar being installed, costing ratepayers and taxpayers, through the negative health impact increase fossil fuel electricity production would cause.

The issue of net metering is becoming increasingly contentious in California, and the California Public Utilities Commission recently ruled that 5.7 GW of rooftop photovoltaics should qualify for net metering. At present CAUSE estimates that 1.4 GW of rooftop photovoltaics have been installed in the state.

Utilities argue that because solar households pay reduced variable charges, through net metering, they are not paying their fair share of grid costs. Most households with photovoltaic arrays, without storage, still draw on the electricity grid when the sun is not shining.