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Debate over changing rooftop solar rules in California

State regulators are looking at several proposals and their decision could have a big impact on the solar industry.

SAN DIEGO — There's a growing power struggle between the solar industry and utilities. Solar panels have become extremely popular as a way to cut electricity costs.

But now the California Public Utilities Commission is considering a proposal that would change the incentives to customers.

"I want people to know that San Diego, Sempra and the other utility companies are coming after your ability to go solar and it's a real threat," said  Bernadette Del Chiaro with the California Solar and Storage Association.  

State utilities like SDG&E are asking regulators to approve a proposal that would cut the bill credit paid to solar customers by more than half and also charge customers a monthly fee.

"If the utilities get their way with what they are pressuring the state to do it will kill the rooftop solar industry in California," said Del Chiaro.

She said for most households this change would eliminate the incentives and the choice to get rooftop solar panels.

The utilities argue that their plan actually has the customers interest at heart.

SDG&E issued the following statement:

"The heart of this modernization effort addresses an unfair and growing inequity stemming from earlier versions of the rooftop solar Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. This cost shift leads to electricity customers without solar systems paying about $3 billion more annually in their electricity bills to subsidize existing rooftop solar customers. This represents each customer without solar paying as much as $240 extra every year, or more for some customers with higher energy needs. The subsidy represents the costs of the electric grid that solar customers use, but for which they do not pay. Oftentimes, those left paying these higher costs are lower-income customers."

But Solar industry experts say a future of clean energy means less cost to everyone and less burden on the planet.

The CPUC will hold a closed-door vote later this year. The only way the public can make their voices heard is by pressuring their local legislator and California's Governor Gavin Newsom.

The number of Americans installing solar on their homes is expected to triple by 2030.

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