Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy (CAUSE) is increasing its efforts to support clean, locally produced energy. The recently minted advocacy organization, which formed this past April, is comprised of solar companies, advocates and doctors. Now they have joined with the American Lung Association to petition the California Energy Commission (CEC) to study the air and economic benefits the state’s net-metering policy offers to Californians.
CAUSE was formed to fight efforts to end or reduce rooftop solar installations. “Monopoly utilities in California and across the United States are trying to eliminate net metering in order to halt the consumer-driven popularity of rooftop solar,” the organization said. Net metering provides solar consumers with fair credit for the energy they put back on the grid, which utilities then sell to other customers, CAUSE added.
Utilities have argued that net-metering policies cost rate-payers too much, since they have to raise rates on customers to pay for the net-metering policies. But on the other hand distributed generation through net-metering reduces the need for those utilities to build new, large power plants and transmission lines, which is a large source of income for the companies since they pass those costs on to consumers.
The study that CAUSE and its partners requested of the CEC would touch on one of the key reasons for using renewables as opposed to fossil fuels for electric generation. It would evaluate the impact of California’s net-metering policy on air quality and death and disease related to reduced use of fossil-fuel generation, as well as its impact on greenhouse gas emissions. It would also evaluate the policy’s impact on jobs, economic activity, electric prices, and grid security in the state.
“By driving the expansion of rooftop solar, net metering helps improve the quality of the air we breathe while creating jobs in our communities,” said CAUSE co-Chair, Dr. Luis Pacheco, medical director of the Transitional Care Unit at California Hospital Medical Center. “These were key considerations when net metering was adopted, and should be included in an assessment of the policy’s overall effectiveness.”
There’s also the consideration that many more polluting technologies have been historically located in poorer areas where people might not complain or campaign against them as people in richer areas would. “Air pollution poses a serious threat to our state’s health, especially in low-income communities of color. Powering our communities with on-site, clean energy instead of burning fossil fuels can help reduce harmful air pollution, create jobs, and lower energy costs at the same time,” said Strela Cervas, co-coordinator of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We should better understand the societal benefits associated with net metering before making policy changes.”
Other groups petitioning CEC for the study currently include: the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Brightline Defense Project, California Center for Sustainable Energy, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Solar Energy Industries Association, Coalition for Clean Air, Distributed Energy, Consumer Advocates, Environment California Research & Policy Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc., Local Energy Aggregation Network, Presente.org, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association, and the Vote Solar Initiative.
If they are successful in getting a study commissioned, it could help states across the country gain a better understanding of the benefits and costs associated with renewable energy. It would also help expose more of the drawbacks and costs of not switching to renewable energy.
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