California Democrat: Won't Somebody Think Of Poor PG&E? No, Wait, She Means Poor PEOPLE.
The San Francisco Chronicle (almost un-evadable paywall, sorry) has a real shitball of a story about "Solar customers: Why won't they pay for the wildfires they aren't causing?"
The gist is that PG&E, which lights the state on fire semi-regularly when it isn't exploding actual neighborhoods, is having trouble with its bankruptcy. A hundred billion in wildfires here, there, you might even have to cut shareholder dividends! So PG&E needs a little help, maybe, not that a Democrat in good standing would ever say so. Which is why California's AB 1139, which would reduce the value of solar energy that rooftop systems pump back into the grid by 70 to 80 percent, and mandate solar customers pay hundreds of dollars in fees to PG&E for not using its energy, is being marketed as a bill for "fairness" and "for the poor."
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez was previously best known for her sloppy and haphazard guesstimation of "what is freelance" when her AB5 bill insisted that 35 pieces a year would make a freelance writer or artist an employee. ("As for how lawmakers settled on the 35-submission figure, Gonzalez says that she and her team decided that a weekly columnist sounded like a part-time worker and so halved that worker's yearly submissions. After protest from some freelancers, the number was bumped up to 35. 'Was it a little arbitrary? Yeah. Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary,' she says.")
Gonzalez is chair of the Appropriations committee. It's an important role, and she shouldn't be "arbitrary." And in that role, regarding her bill, AB 1139, which would absolutely destroy the solar rooftop market and negate all the strides California is making in clean energy that will help the state be less on fire, she says,
the idea that she's trying to destroy the rooftop solar market is "ridiculous" and "a silly argument." In her mind, AB1139 tries to right-size an unfair burden faced by those who don't have solar panels.
You know what really unfair burden is faced by those who don't have solar panels? When their city is on fire and they can't afford a motel room as hundreds of thousands of people flee.
Gonzalez said she has solar panels on her home and believes the current net metering program pays her too much. She said her most recent electric bill was negative, meaning she owed no money and doesn't have to pay fixed costs for the electric system that her neighbors without solar can't escape.
See, her most recent electric bill was negative, because she made energy for her neighbors who don't have solar.
This is not a hard concept. But the math sure is. Check out this bullshit.
First up, solar customers:
Still, some solar supporters worry that the bill's passage could motivate regulators to adopt far-reaching changes, including monthly charges of about $70 that utilities have proposed for new solar customers.
(Those charges are ONLY for solar customers, not for anybody else who also is using the grid.)
And then, a few paragraphs later, non-solar households:
Severin Borenstein, an energy economist and an author of the report, said the growth of rooftop solar under current net metering rules was a significant driver of high electric rates, though not the only major factor. He estimates that overhauling net metering could save the average household about $75 per year.
LOL, so everybody who put solar panels on their roofs will pay $800-ish a year so non-solar families can save $75 a year. Who's free-riding whom?
According to the California Solar & Storage Association — and sorry, but that's one industry group I'd sure as hell trust before I trusted PG&E — it now takes about 11 years of solar use "net metering" before you earn back the cost of your system — a system that helps society by obviating the need for big natural gas-fired plants out in the desert, and the wires and grid needed to get that energy over dry, combustible hills to people's homes. Under Gonzalez's bill, they estimate that 11-year payback for the cost of your solar panels would now take 45 years.
Solar panels have a life expectancy of 25 or 30.
Lorena Gonzalez might as well be Wyoming, suing other states for not buying its coal, but in this case, she's putting the squeeze on people who are adding clean energy to the grid, to pay for PG&E's bullshit.
Here's some astroturf bullshit, if you like astroturf bullshit:
PG&E, its Southern California utility counterparts and various other groups that want regulators to reform net metering are aligned under a coalition called Affordable Clean Energy for All. One of its arguments is that the benefits afforded by the current program no longer make sense in light of how the costs of solar power technology have plummeted while California's electric rates have risen.
Why have California's electric rates risen? Is it because PG&E keeps setting the state on fire? Well, the $2 billion PG&E spent on shareholder dividends from 2016-2017 should have been spent on "not starting fires," a judge ruled in 2019, and the CPUC report that recommends the new solar "tariff" also points out that ratepayers are on the hook for $10.5 billion in wildfire payouts, so ... yes! And while the state gets a huge share of its energy from renewable resources, about half is still from natural gas. (Only one coal plant remains.)
Gonzalez is undoubtedly aware that her concern for low-income people getting shafted for rich people's vanity solar panels is ... say it with me! Some bullshit. Per the CSSA, there are 150,000 "income-eligible" people who currently have solar, whom Gonzalez's bill would be fucking:
AB 1139 would hurt 150,000 income-eligible CARE consumers who have solar on their home today by retroactively changing their net metering contract, adding fees and reducing compensation for energy exported to the grid on hot summer days. Instead of saving $122-$178 on average monthly bills, monthly savings would be reduced to $37-$56, a 70% reduction of today's solar savings. This would not be enough to cover the upfront cost of the system, thus harming consumers who were encouraged by the state to embrace clean energy. This kind of retroactive policy is bad for all consumers, but it is especially damaging to working-class solar users.
California has invested over $1 billion [or one year of PG&E dividends — Editrix] to incentivize low-income solar adoption through 2030, with net metering as a critical driver of the economic success of those programs. At present, 15% of all net metered solar users (150,000) are on income-eligible CARE rates.
An additional 30,000 rental units serving over 100,000 people at multifamily affordable housing projects are under development via the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program. According to a recent Lawrence Berkeley National Labs report, solar adoption among low- and moderate-income households is trending upward, covering 42% in 2019, or 60,000 installations. AB 1139 would reverse this positive trend, leaving solar for only the wealthy, save for a relatively small number of fully subsidized systems. This would have a negative effect on efforts to shut down fossil fuel power plants and reduce persistent air pollution.
You know who's most affected by persistent air pollution? It's the low-income people Gonzalez is claiming this bill is for.
The Chronicle almost gives this voice of reason the last word:
"Why would we want to limit rooftop solar right now when the state needs it so much?" said Walker Wright, vice president of public policy at the San Francisco solar company Sunrun. "If anything, we should be doing more for distributed generation right now, and I think that lines up with what the public wants overwhelmingly."
But then they didn't, and ended up with a "utility critic" who's like "but is it fair to not have to pay for wildfires if you paid for a thing to help stop wildfires?" but he didn't say it like that, because I guess he hadn't thought it through very well, and fuck 'em all.
Disclaimer! Your Wonkette put $20,000 in solar panels on her home in Montana and has been paying DOUBLE the electricity bill ever since, because her local utility still can't figure out how to run her meter, so this would not affect her anyway and she considers it a gift to her state and the planet but still: That's some bullshit. Also, Montana's about to do this same thing as Gonzalez's terrible bill, because won't someone think of the coal companies?
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Rebecca Schoenkopf is the owner, publisher, and editrix of Wonkette. She is a nice lady, SHUT UP YUH HUH. She is very tired with this fucking nonsense all of the time, and it would be terrific if you sent money to keep this bitch afloat. She is on maternity leave until 2033.