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Solar Workers and Supporters Rally and March in Los Angeles and San Francisco to Save Solar Jobs from Utility Profit Grab

Solar Workers and Supporters Rally and March in Los Angeles and San Francisco to Save Solar Jobs from Utility Profit Grab

Posted: January 14, 2022 | Tradewinds

Thousands of solar workers joined solar consumers, housing advocates, faith leaders, environmentalists, conservationists, and climate activists today to make their voices heard in a statewide effort to save more than 50,000 family-supporting green jobs in the rooftop solar industry. Workers and supporters held simultaneous rallies and marches to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) buildings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Solar jobs are threatened due to a recent proposed decision by the CPUC on the future of “net metering.” Net metering is the state policy that makes rooftop solar more affordable for consumers, particularly in middle and working class neighborhoods where solar is growing fastest, by compensating them for the excess energy they produce and share with their neighbors. The CPUC proposed decision would make solar unaffordable for most consumers, threatening jobs and small businesses throughout the state, by imposing a new $684 a year solar tax and slashing consumer credits for solar by 80%.

In San Francisco, a rally took place at the center strip of Civic Center Plaza near City Hall, before solar workers and consumers, housing advocates, faith leaders, environmentalists, conservationists, and climate activists marched to the CPUC headquarters. In Los Angeles, solar workers and supporters rallied at the Grant Park performance lawn before a march with banners, hand-held signs and balloons to CPUC’s downtown office. Both rallies were joined by solar workers and advocates from across the state, rallying to stop a prohibitive tax on solar and protect local jobs.

“This proposed decision completely reverses California’s progress on clean energy and green jobs,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of California Solar & Storage Association. “The thousands of hard working men and women who provide clean, reliable energy for millions of consumers came out here today to fight for their jobs, for affordable and clean energy, and for their state to get back on track as a solar leader.”

Despite the overwhelming popularity of rooftop solar in California, and the strong public support for programs to increase solar energy in California, the CPUC is proposing a giveaway to investor-owned utilities that would boost utility profits at the expense of energy consumers, green jobs, and California’s clean energy future. PG&E and other big utilities want to change the rules in their favor in order to eliminate a growing competitor, keep consumers stuck in utility monopolies, and maintain the need for costly and often dangerous transmission lines that are a key driver of utility profits and ratepayer costs. 

If utilities get their way, solar will become unaffordable for most middle and working class consumers, costing tens of thousands of solar jobs, making California more vulnerable to fires and blackouts, and derailing California’s clean energy progress needed to fight climate change.

“I’ve seen my colleagues and I work hard to keep the lights on across the state during the pandemic,” said Ferrer Sanders, a solar worker with A1 Sun in the Bay Area. “This proposed decision feels like a punch in the gut for local solar workers who are working every day to keep communities safe and electrified. We should be making solar more affordable, and not less, for everyone.”

“My job is among tens of thousands of jobs on the line,” said Joel Ellazar, a solar worker at HES Solar who traveled to LA from the San Diego area. “California’s leadership has the opportunity to support the lives and livelihoods of solar workers, small businesses, and communities today, or watch utilities destroy the progress we have made over the years.”

The Save CA Solar coalition, which includes more than 600 diverse organizations, has helped generate 120,000+ public comments submitted in support of net metering ahead of the CPUC proposed decision. The coalition will continue calling on the CPUC to find a better way to support solar in California ahead of the final vote, including encouraging Governor Newsom to step in with a solution that saves solar jobs and keeps California on the path to 100% clean energy.

“For the last year, a diverse coalition of organizations, leaders, consumers, and workers have kept speaking up for solar, and to make sure California stays a solar state,” said Dave Rosenfeld, Director of the Solar Rights Alliance. “We want the CPUC and Governor Newsom to understand just how unpopular the idea of putting utility profits over people is in California.”

The CPUC will hold a final vote on the future of net metering following a 25-day comment period on the proposed decision and alternative proposals. The current proposal is set for a vote on January 27 but that date could be moved if an alternate decision is proposed. The proposed changes to net metering could go into effect as early as this Spring.