Environmental, solar groups protest SDG&E’s attempts to change net metering 2.0

Yesterday the local solar industry and environmentalists took the fight over net metering to the offices of San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s (SDG&E) offices, in a rally which called for California regulators to hold their ground against utility attempts to change the January net metering 2.0 decision.

On March 8, SDG&E and Southern California Edison (SCE) filed a request asking for a re-hearing from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), proposing specific modifications to the details of the program. Additionally, utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) called for the CPUC to void the decision and start over.

Net metering 2.0 will replace the state’s existing net metering program in July 2017 or when utility-specific program caps are met, which is expected to happen this summer in San Diego.

The original process to develop net metering 2.0 took 22 months, and resulted in a 3-2 decision which the solar industry has claimed as a victory. However, SDG&E wants a number of changes, including making net metering customers pay for transmission in “non-bypassable charges”.

The protest was organized by the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA), the local chapter of the Sierra Club, San Diego 350.org and the Climate Action Campaign. Additionally, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob spoke at the rally against SDG&E’s proposal. One of the primary concerns is that SDG&E is using funds from its captive ratepayers to fund this legal battle, and by extension to defend its monopoly from competition.

“State regulators need to stand firm and not cave into pressure from SDG&E and other giant utilities to gut our booming rooftop solar industry,” said Jacob. “SDG&E and its fat-cat executives don’t like competition, but San Diego ratepayers deserve real energy options.”

In response, SDG&E sent out a press release citing its support from the Urban League. "We urged the CPUC to correct the unfairness of the net energy metering rules that are forcing the low-income and working poor residents that we serve to pay for the solar of much wealthier people," said Urban League of San Diego County President and CEO Ray King in the release. "We were ignored in the final decision, but now the commission can take the opportunity to correct the social injustice."

But while SDG&E alleges impact to low-income customers, California’s Office of Ratepayer Advocates backed the final net metering 2.0 decision instead of siding with the utilities.

SDG&E and its opponents in the solar and renewable energy community agree on little here, including the size of the protest. A press release from CalSEIA claims that over 150 persons attended the protest, whereas SDG&E’s estimate was 30. A panoramic photo supplied by CalSEIA shows around 70 protestors, however the organization notes that attendees came and went and that not all the protestors could be seen in any one photo.