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Vote delayed on controversial proposal impacting solar panel owners

This proposal would drastically reduce how much residents are paid for the electricity they contribute to the power grid from their solar panels.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The vote on a controversial proposal that would impact solar-panel users has been delayed as of Thursday. Critics of the plan say it would negate most of the financial incentives to buy solar panels for their homes, and would also punish current users. 

The earliest the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, could vote on this would now be Feb. 0, after the proposal was not listed on its upcoming Jan. 27 meeting. 

Opponents point out that whereas most solar panel customers are currently able to recoup their investment in about 4 to 6 years, under this new proposal, it could take 15 years or longer.

"The proposal would make it impossible for most working and middle-class people to put solar panels on their roof," said Dave Rosenfeld of the Solar Rights Alliance.

This proposal by CPUC would reduce, by about 80%, how much residents are paid for the electricity they contribute to the power grid from their solar panels.

"On top of that, they are adding a solar tax - just for the privilege of having solar on your roof," said Mike Teresso, president of Baker Electric Home Energy in San Diego.

He estimated that for his customers, that added fee would amount to $70 monthly.

"So now you are paying $70 a month just for the right to have solar on your roof, and then are getting almost nothing for what you're exporting back to the grid," Teresso told CBS8. "It just completely destroys the financial benefit of rooftop solar."

The proposal would also roll back, from 20 years to 15 years, the state's current commitment to existing solar customers. grandfathering them into the current payment arrangement for their energy.

Last week, local solar workers journeyed to Los Angeles to rally outside the CPUC office there.

Teresso said that roughly 68.000 people are currently employed in the rooftop solar industry statewide.

"If this changes, we could simply see a large portion of those jobs just simply disappear, practically overnight," Teresso added. 

The utilities have previously said that solar owners are currently not paying their fair share of grid maintenance costs, which non-solar customers cover, requiring these changes. 

The CPUC did not return CBS 8's request for comment as of Thursday night. 

"It is money, it is power, it is influence, and the utilities have that in spades," Rosenfeld said. "And you see that reflected in the CPUC's proposal."

He added that now is the time for the public to speak up.

"If you are listening, you should be calling the governor, you should be weighing into the CPUC," he told CBS8. "If these are things that you care about, this is your time to make your voice heard: you should do it."

While the CPUC will not be voting on this proposal at its January 27 meeting, the public is still able to provide their comments.

For more information on submitting comments to the CPUC, click here

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