Actors Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo, as well as Musk, who runs electric car maker and solar provider Tesla Inc., all took to Twitter this week to slam a plan by the state’s regulators that would impose new fees and reduce payments to residents who install rooftop solar.
“We need to get loud on this,” Norton— who starred in “Fight Club”— said in a Twitter post. “This is truly a moment of truth & choice between an American renewal, characterized by the technological innovation & entrepreneurial dynamism that made this country a powerhouse or remaining shackled to broken & dirty system.”
The proposal would reduce the compensation that rooftop solar customers receive for the power they send to the grid by as much as 80% during certain times, doing away with the system where residents now get the retail power rate for their supply. The revised rules would also require new solar users to pay monthly fees that could average around $40 a month or higher.
The lobbying effort is heating up as the California Public Utilities Commission is set to vote on the proposed changes later this month. Regulators said reforms to the popular incentive program are needed to make sure solar users pay for their fair share of costs of the electric grid, a move supported by the state’s three big investor-owned utilities — PG&E Corp., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — and consumer advocates. The utilities and consumer groups say those who can’t afford or use rooftop solar end up paying higher bills to cover the subsidies.
Earlier this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom weighed in, saying he thinks changes need to be made to the proposal.
The solar industry is urging its supporters to write letters to Newsom, state regulators and other elected leaders to fight back against moves they say will decimate their business. The main California solar trade group is sponsoring a worker rally on Thursday in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which both Norton and Ruffalo promoted on Twitter.
“It’s important that policymakers understand there are a lot of solar jobs on the line,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association, which is organizing the protests.
Musk called the solar proposal “a bizarre anti-environment move” on Twitter and shared a link to a Tesla website where people can send a message to Newsom and regulators to ask them to reject the proposal. Walton, a basketball hall of famer and a longtime solar promoter who works with installers, sent a letter to Newsom asking him to reject the proposed decision, according to a statement.
Utilities and their allies aren’t standing pat. Affordable Clean Energy for All, a utility-backed coalition that includes electrical labor unions, business and community groups, is running digital ads and encouraging its members to call Newsom and elected leaders to move forward with the proposal, said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the coalition.
“It’s hypocritical that people who claim to want to help disadvantaged communities are advocating to keep a regressive policy that takes from the poor and gives to publicly-traded companies to fatten their profits, increase their stock price and shareholder wealth,” said Fairbanks.