On May 9th, 2022, California Public Utilities Commission reopened the record on NEM (Net Energy Metering) 3.0, a new iteration on the way solar power may be taxed and billed for all solar users across California.
The CPUC argument for raising rates is that the burden of infrastructure costs lies on the average energy consumer in a disproportionate manner. Those opposed to the bill argue that it’s fairer for non-solar-powered homes to have a higher energy bill because they are putting a heavier burden on the power grid and infrastructure.
However, every new solar producer = one less person bearing the burden of maintaining the grid. That’s the rub. This disproportionately affects the working class in order to subsidize the well-to-do-gooders.
And also occurs at the precise moment when more low-to-middle income people are actually taking advantage of solar subsidies.
Editor’s note: Classic. The rich take advantage and then slam the door.
Earlier this year, Elon Musk created an entire page on the Tesla website dedicated to educating the public about what this would mean for their pockets as well as directly encouraging folks to write and call Governor Gavin Newson in opposition to NEM 3.0. Shortly after the page went up, CPUC announced it would pause its plans and delay the vote indefinitely. Indefinitely, however, ended up only meaning a few months. The CPUC has announced there could be a draft of the bill as early as July.
Twitter has been a huge asset to those pushing back against CPUC. California Solar and Storage Association has started a campaign for the longest day of the year, June 21st that has gone viral on Twitter as #donttaxthesun call-in day. They urge concerned Californians to call Governor Newsom at 916.445.2841 in opposition to NEM 3.0.
Also originating from Twitter, a #donttaxthesunrally was held on June 2nd at Grand Park, Los Angeles, and in front of the CPUC building in San Francisco. Vice Mayor of Hercules, Alex Walker-Griffin showed up and spoke to the crowd gathered, “When I heard about this tax, quite frankly it pissed me off. Dry years, the lack of rain; it’s no mystery what’s causing it. That is why we say, ‘NO’ to the Solar Tax because again, we want every Californian regardless of who they are to be able to participate in a clean and just environment.”
Another passionate speech was given at the #donttaxthesunrally in San Francisco by Jim Mikles of Alternative Energy Solutions. “My business employs 50 people in rural Northern California which is ground zero for utility-sparked fires, like Kincaid Fire, Zogg Fire, Dixie Fire, and the Camp Fire which is the most destructive wildfire in California history. Many of our employees and customers lost their homes in these fires, and we’re all changed forever. These fires were caused by utility negligence. The face that PG&E burned our houses, and now they want to shut down our companies and take our jobs because we’re the only competition to them. It’s unconscionable. It’s immoral, and it’s just another utility slap in our face!”
Mikles’ concerns of loss of business are a dark reality if the tax is passed. Sage Energy Construction put out a white paper on the solar tax to outline what it would look like for NEM 3.0 to become a reality. “This steep reduction in value will make it much more challenging for small solar PV systems to provide positive financial returns …especially if the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar PV systems steps down from 26% today to 10% for commercial customers and 0% for residential customers in 2024, as currently scheduled by Congress, solar PV systems could struggle to compete with utility energy prices in all customer classes.”