Our future and the solar mandate of Assembly Bill 327

by Theresa Coleman and Paul Kangas

The CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) is not keeping its eye on the ball. Instead of using the new solar law, AB 327, signed by the governor in 2013, CPUC President Michael Peevey took a meat ax to AB 327.

Rooftop solar installation is one of the best opportunities to return the unemployed to the workforce, a top priority in poor communities of color. These trainees are installing panels on a clinic in Rwanda. If Africans can do it, so can African Americans. – Photo: Walt Ratterman, Sunepi
Rooftop solar installation is one of the best opportunities to return the unemployed to the workforce, a top priority in poor communities of color. These trainees are installing panels on a clinic in Rwanda. If Africans can do it, so can African Americans. – Photo: Walt Ratterman, Sunepi

To correct this illegal abuse of power by Peevey, Gov. Brown just appointed Michael Picker to head the CPUC, to use his power to correct these anti-community new taxes forced onto AB 327 by Peevey, and so on California cities by Big Oil.

Will Mr. Picker correct the damage to this new law that would give more economic power to solar homeowners? Or will Picker ignore the damage done to this solar payment policy and hope the public is too busy watching TV and playing computer games to notice that Sacramento is fiddling while California burns?

The intent of AB 327 is to make the homes and businesses in California into productive and profitable “customer solar generators” by 2020, to help California reach the solar mandate of obtaining 33 percent of its energy from solar and renewables by 2020, which will generate safe, clean and free solar power for the state.

The intent of AB 327 is to make the homes and businesses in California into productive and profitable “customer solar generators” by 2020, to help California reach the solar mandate of obtaining 33 percent of its energy from solar and renewables by 2020.

We have to make AB 327 attractive to homeowners to inspire them to tap their equity, to take out a bank loan and buy 40 solar panels. Or, even better, buy a new solar home with 100 solar panels. Lancaster, Calif., now sells 100 percent solar-powered homes.

(Note: When we use the word “solar,” we mean it to include wind, tidal and hydro, since all of these forms of renewable energies come from the sun.)

The CPUC, under its former leadership, gutted the original intent of this new solar payment policy signed by Gov. Brown in December 2013. Instead of heading rapidly towards a future solar economy, based on home rooftop solar, as Gov. Jerry Brown called for in his speech on Jan. 5, 2015, the CPUC raised rates for the poorest people in California, who use the least energy.

And then, to add insult to injury, the CPUC cut rates for the top two tiers, the richest people, those who consume the most energy: aluminum smelting and similar huge industrial corporations, which already get other hidden subsidies and pay almost no taxes. Instead of creating an opening for a new solar economy, based on home rooftop solar, which could create thousands of solar jobs, what CPUC did was to raise rates on all the consumers – and lower rates for the rich.

This is a direct violation of the mandate which AB 327 gave to the CPUC: Stealing from the poor to give to the rich – while California burns.

Instead of deciding to install solar panels on millions of available roof tops, schools and hospitals, so that the energy is being generated in the very neighborhood where it will be used, CPUC decided to fund out-of-state, giant solar farms, owned by Big Oil.

The CPUC was supposed to find the best locations for new rooftop solar panels. Instead of deciding to install solar panels on millions of available roof tops, schools and hospitals, so that the energy is being generated in the very neighborhood where it will be used, guess what the CPUC does?

This is Big Oil’s idea: Blanket the desert with solar panels, then ship the energy hundreds or thousands of miles away, denying homeowners and farmers the opportunity to be paid as customer-generators to generate clean energy at the exact place it will be used.
This is Big Oil’s idea: Blanket the desert with solar panels, then ship the energy hundreds or thousands of miles away, denying homeowners and farmers the opportunity to be paid as customer-generators to generate clean energy at the exact place it will be used.

They frequently emphasize out-of-state, giant solar farms owned by Big Oil, in Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and Washington – creating almost no jobs in California. Our goal must be to give the solar homeowners the lion’s share of the money made from our new solar economy.

California must achieve 33 percent of its energy from solar by 2020. That is what the new California Solar Payment Policy, AB 327, mandates.

Gov. Brown recently called for California to achieve 50 percent of its energy from solar and renewables by 2050. This is a great goal. It can create even more jobs for solar installers. We need to keep our eye on the CPUC to help them achieve the goal Gov. Brown called for.

We have two choices:

We can add solar panels onto 10 percent of the homes, as many as 500,000 homes, so the homeowners will get the lion’s share of the benefits from selling solar to PG&E, such as free energy and earning hundreds of dollars a month for selling their surplus onto our grid. If we choose this path, this will create more than 60,000 jobs for the architects needed to design new solar homes, each with as many as 100 solar panels on the roof.

These homes are like those which are now very common in Europe. Jobs will be created for all the electricians, carpenters and installers needed to build solar homes. These are long term California jobs. These are jobs that cannot be exported. These are jobs many young people can learn and do now.

Jobs will be created for all the electricians, carpenters and installers needed to build solar homes. These are jobs many young people can learn and do now.

Creating 100,000 new solar powered homes per year, through installing solar panels, until the state has achieved energy independence, is a job that cannot be off-shored. Lancaster, Calif., is already building hundreds of these 100 percent solar powered homes.

To really turn a solar home into a moneymaker, making $300 a month extra, we need to build solar homes that generate 200 percent solar, so the owner can earn $0.49 kwh selling the surplus to PG&E. Yes, we can make PG&E pay a premium for the solar we sell onto our grid.

Or we can watch the oil corporations build giant solar farms on the deserts in Nevada and Idaho, which are owned by Big Oil, so that Big Oil gets most of the benefits from solar and creates very few jobs in California. That comes at twice the cost to the ratepayers of California.

We refuse to sit back and let the oil companies take over the solar industry. Solar belongs to the people.

Logic mandates we must shift rapidly to solar. Global warming is caused by burning gas, oil and coal. AB 327 mandates we must reach 33 percent solar by 2020. It is doable.

We now have electric cars: Smart, Nissan, Fiat and Toyota, with batteries large enough to power an efficient solar home for three nights. So your home has energy at night. Bingo. The two main parts of the solar solution are now here: cheap solar panels that last for 60-plus years and e-cars that provide nighttime power, when the sun is down.

The two main parts of the solar solution are now here: cheap solar panels that last for 60-plus years and electric cars with batteries that provide nighttime power when the sun is down.

Such e-car and solar home units can be networked to create local grids to power neighborhoods. This can be a reality within three years.

Gov. Brown has appointed Michael Picker to head the CPUC, to use the Cleanup Doctrine to correct the outrageous damage Peevey did to the whole future solar economy of California. Mr. Picker was at the inaugural speech by Gov. Brown. Did Mr. Picker hear the clarion call Gov. Brown issued for 50 percent solar and renewables by 2050?

That is the trend, as it is in cities all over Europe and Japan, which are shifting from gas and atomic energy to solar. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We can use the leadership provided by Germany and Japan to build our solar future here in California.

Many cities in Europe were damaged by radiation from the Chernobyl explosion. Many cities in Japan have been exposed to radiation from Fukushima explosion. These homeowners want to move rapidly towards solar and away from gas and atomic energy. That is why this Solar Payment Policy (SPP) has spread so rapidly worldwide, especially in areas where people have suffered the most damage.

Developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia can leapfrog out of the poverty caused by oil corporations into a bright, clean future if they move rapidly towards building solar homes and developing a solar payment policy in their cities.

Developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia can leapfrog out of the poverty caused by oil corporations into a bright, clean future if they move rapidly towards building solar homes and developing a solar payment policy in their cities.

We should not wait until there is an earthquake and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant explodes. We should learn from the explosions at San Bruno, Fukushima and Chernobyl. We can move quickly to safe, clean, quiet, free, non-explosive solar today.

Community advocate Theresa Coleman and solar energy advocate Paul Kangas can be reached at theresalynncoleman@yahoo.com and dr8kangas@me.com, respectively.