Betsy Lillian | Solar Industry Magazine | February 21, 2019
California State Sens. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Jim Nielsen, R-Red Bluff, have introduced a bill that would create a “solar bill of rights” for consumers to generate and store their own clean energy on-site without interference from utility companies.
The bipartisan legislation, S.B.288, addresses some of the main barriers consumers currently face when installing and maintaining renewable energy technologies. According to the senators, these challenges include “outdated tariffs” and “unreasonable barriers” to connecting to the grid. (Although it is known as the Solar Bill of Rights, the bill is technology-neutral and applies to all renewable sources of energy and energy storage.)
For example, as explained by the lawmakers, many consumers who install on-site energy storage systems and are connected to the electric grid may at times receive no compensation for the additional electricity they are storing and putting back into the grid during times of day when it is most needed. Instead, these same consumers could later be charged for electricity that they themselves discharged onto the electric grid. S.B.288 requires the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Independent System Operator and the boards of publicly owned utilities around the state to update relevant tariffs to ensure fair compensation of distributed energy resources.
“To fight climate change, California is moving aggressively to 100 percent renewable energy,” says Wiener. “To meet our 100 percent renewable energy goal, we must make it easier for individuals, businesses, nonprofits and public agencies to generate their own renewable energy. This legislation is about ensuring that we all have access to the benefits of solar and other sources of renewable energy. When our public agencies put up barriers to make it harder and less attractive to install renewable energy, we’re all worse for it.”
Wiener adds that the state must “move away from a purely centralized, monopoly approach to energy.”
Nielsen, bringing up California’s new residential solar mandate, notes that homeowners should have “fair compensation for energy produced on their properties.”
According to the lawmakers, the Solar Bill of Rights promotes energy independence by recognizing that all Californians have a right to do as follows:
● Generate, store and use renewable energy on their property without interference from utility companies;
● Interconnect their solar and storage to the grid quickly, without utility red tape; and
● Be free from discriminatory fees and charges associated with installing solar or storage technologies.
S.B.288 is also co-authored by State Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, and Robert Rivas, D-Hollister. Over 50 people joined Tuesday’s announcement (which can be watched below) to introduce the bill, including dozens of solar workers, farmers, school officials, small-business owners, disability rights activists and organizations including Vote Solar, the Solar Rights Alliance, the California Solar and Storage Association, Brightline Defense, California Housing Partnership Corp., and Environment California.
“Every Californian has the right to make their own energy from the sun without the utility getting in the way, especially in these uncertain times,” says Dave Rosenfeld, director of the Solar Rights Alliance. “The Solar Bill of Rights will guarantee those rights for everyone – homeowners, renters, farmers, businesses, schools – regardless of where you live or what you do. We’re grateful to Senators Scott Wiener and Jim Nielsen for working together to stand up for our personal freedoms.”
“Solar energy has become an important part of managing our schools, saving us significant operational funds that can be much better spent on the educational needs of our kids,” adds Dr. Ken Testa, director of facilities for California’s Merced City School District. “But despite the state’s commitment to solar energy, there are real barriers for consumers that need to be seriously addressed, particularly at the interconnection level.”
S.B.288 was officially introduced on Feb. 13 and will be set for a hearing in the coming months.