SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGTV) -- A controversial bill that would change the benefits for homeowners with rooftop solar failed to get enough votes to pass the State Assembly Wednesday afternoon. It could come up again for a reconsideration vote Thursday.
The bill, AB 1139, would reform what's known as net metering, which is is how solar owners get money back from utilities for selling excess energy back to the grid. The bill's author, San Diego Assemblymember Lorenza Gonzalez, says subsidizing solar owners is responsible for raising rates on everyone else, which she calls unfair.
“There’s a profound inequity happening here," said Matthew Freedman, an attorney for the non-profit The Utility Reform Network. "If it was the utility shareholders paying, I would be all for it. But it’s other customers. It’s renters subsidizing homeowners. It’s like a reverse Robin Hood problem that we have.” Freedman says it no longer makes sense for solar owners to be paid at high rates for the energy they create because the cost of solar energy has dropped so much in recent years. He also says utility companies would not be the beneficiaries of reduced solar net metering, saying the result of reform would be lowering the bills of those without solar.
Solar advocates and many environmental groups disagree. “This is about killing rooftop solar so the utilities can have additional profit," said Tara Hammond, a solar energy and climate change advocate. Hammond says the best way to expand the use of solar energy and decrease use of fossil fuels is to continue to use economic incentives, such as net metering, to encourage people to invest in solar energy. “We should be incentivizing rooftop solar. We should be making solar more accessible to renters, to communities of concern," Hammond said.
If voting continues Thursday and the bill passes, it would move on to the State Senate for consideration.