Saturday, February 11, 2012

Solar Users Protest Network-Use Charge, PUC Denies Increase Later that Day

Dressed as solar panels and the sun while singing a rewritten version of “You Are My Sunshine,” solar energy proponents staged a peaceful demonstration at the Jan. 18 grand opening of San Diego Gas & Electric’s Energy Innovation Center to protest a proposed network-use charge for solar customers.

As the 50 or so participants sang and chanted, “Solar power’s what we need. We say no to corporate greed,” “You can’t tax the mighty sun. It belongs to everyone,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho — the solar tax has got to go,” the California Public Utilities Commission rejected the proposal, saying it could result in solar producers being double charged.

SDG&E can submit a forecast of future costs to the PUC every three or four years to set rates for its customers. In its most recent filing Oct. 3, SDG&E claimed traditional energy customers are subsidizing solar users, who still use the company’s infrastructure but don’t pay for it.

“The way the rate is structured now is broken and it needs to be fixed,” SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan said. “We want to make sure it’s sustainable.

“There is a cost for keeping that network running reliably and safely,” she said. “We’re simply asking everyone to pay their fair share of these costs.”

Opponents claimed the fee would double current electric bills for solar users and be a disincentive to installing rooftop solar panels.

“I was planning on getting solar but this fee would not make it financially viable,” said Carlsbad resident Susan Burkland, who was among the demonstrators. “It’s like taking us back in time, rolling back the forward movement we’ve made.

“I think they make enough money,” Burkland said in response to SDG&E’s subsidizing claim.

“I’m not terribly happy about the increase,” said Gilbert Field of Carmel Valley, who’s had solar panels for three years.

Not everyone at the demonstration was a solar producer. Alexandra Lane of Point Loma said she was there because she didn’t believe the proposed fee was fair.

“The last time I checked, the sun was free and it should stay that way,” she said.

“We know the rate structure needs to be fixed and we made a proposal that stirred up a lot of controversy,” Donovan said. “But we are listening.

“We want people to provide new ideas and solutions,” she said. “We don’t believe we are the only ones with an answer. We do share the goal of ensuring solar is sustainable for San Diego.”


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