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San Diego County Taxpayers Association supports 'sunshine tax' on solar

Debate heats up over California’s proposed rooftop solar tariff: NEM 3.0

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) came out in support Wednesday of a new tariff on rooftop solar.

The solar industry calls it a sunshine tax.

The tariff could mean a charge of $48 per month for the average solar customer in San Diego, in addition to other proposed charges.

“We’re opposed to taxing consumers for generating their own energy from the sun,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, the executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association.

“It’s unfair. It moves California in the wrong direction.  And it absolutely will destroy the rooftop solar market in California,” said Del Chiaro.

The solar tariff is supported by the State's big-three utilities, that argue solar customers do not pay their fair share to maintain a clean, reliable grid.

"Billion of dollars of money are saved by generating electricity in our communities and avoiding having to pay San Diego Gas and Electric money to build transmission lines to bring those electrons in from far away," said Del Chiaro.

Under the so-called NEM 3.0 proposal, residential solar owners in San Diego would pay an average monthly tariff of $48, as well as a higher rate for time-of-use power amounting to $16 per month, Del Chiaro said, and receive a greatly reduced rate when selling extra power back to the grid.

“San Diego Gas and Electric and the other utilities are acting out of an anti-competitive spirit, trying to scapegoat solar users, and blaming solar users – of all people – for their ballooning and out-of-control spending of ratepayer dollars,” said Del Chiaro.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association, on the other hand, supported NEM 3.0 saying the current rate structure favors rooftop solar customers over low income customers, who cannot afford solar.

"Twenty cents on every dollar of a non-solar customer's bill goes to subsidize the stuff that solar customers aren't paying for," said Haney Hong, the group’s CEO.

The proposed tariff also would support a $600 million clean energy fund and support battery storage programs for low income customers.

“It’s not going to kill the solar industry,” said Hong. “This is not an issue of no solar at all.  It's an issue of where can we correct the marketplace so that we continue to incentivize those other things and other technologies that will help us get to decarbonizing the grid.”

SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra, supports the San Diego County Taxpayers Association financially by contributing tens of thousands of dollars annually in membership dues and other payments, records showed.

“San Diego Gas and Electric is a member of the Taxpayers Association, as are other San Diego companies, as are many households,” said Hong. “Did they influence this discussion or process?  Absolutely not.”

Currently, the proposed NEM 3.0 tariff has been put on hold indefinitely at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom said there was “more work to be done” on NEM 3.0 before it goes to a final vote at the CPUC.

WATCH RELATED: Sempra's California utilities predict $21.2 billion in capital projects by 2026 (Feb. 2022).

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