SACRAMENTO—Over a thousand solar supporters, representing a diverse coalition from all over California, gathered at the state capitol for an “Everyone Under the Sun Festival and Rally” to celebrate California’s clean energy progress and urge Governor Newsom to keep solar growing for California energy consumers in all communities.

Photo by Ricky Mackie. View all event photos here.

The event featured performances by James Jackson & All Stars Gospel Choir, Mariachi Nuevo Mexico de Sacramento, Keen Khmer Ballet, Aztec Dancers, and the Grammy-Award winning band Ozomatli, along with remarks from notable climate advocacy and social justice leaders. During the event, participants created a 480-foot long painted billboard on 10th street with a pro-solar message for Governor Newsom, and displayed a giant 40×70 foot flag with a “keep solar growing for all” message on the lawn in front of the state capitol building.

Photo by Jason Vetterli. View all event photos here.

Solar is currently growing fastest in working and middle class neighborhoods and helping to advance California’s race to clean energy. That progress is threatened by utility-backed efforts in the California Public Utilities Commission to reduce competition by making solar unaffordable for most consumers through changes to a popular state policy called “net energy metering.” Net energy metering makes rooftop solar more affordable for consumers of all types by crediting them for the excess energy they produce and share with their neighbors.

Event Quotes: 

“It’s no accident that California is the nation’s solar leader, with now a million and a half solar rooftops; it’s the direct result of state action to promote and grow clean energy; and this is no time to abandon the mantle of leadership,” said Laura Deehan, Environment California State Director. “We need four times as much rooftop solar if we want to protect our climate and our environment; let’s not get rid of solar incentives that help us reach that goal. Let’s reject solar taxes and go much further in supporting adoption of this critical clean energy technology.”

“State leaders are kidding themselves if they think we can meet our clean energy goals entirely with remote solar farms and new power lines, especially as we add millions of electric vehicles in communities throughout the state,” said Brad Heavner, policy director of the California Solar & Storage Association. “We need local power, and a new tax on solar would be the wrong direction for California.”

“To achieve true energy equity, we need to allow people to come together to share resources to create better solutions for everyone,” said Crystal Huang, Co-Founder  of the People Power Solar Cooperative. “We need strong energy policies that allow decision-making and ownership of energy resources to stay in the community rather than in remote corporate boardrooms. For the safety, health, and well-being of our communities, it’s time to move toward a decentralized energy model that advances community-centered policy and expands access to distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and community-owned solar, storage, and microgrids. This transition must prioritize  community-owned and public renewable energy projects developed by cooperatives, municipalities, and nonprofits that build shared wealth and decision-making power for BIPOC and low-income communities who are disproportionately harmed by the extractive energy economy.”

“Fifteen years ago, you had to be very wealthy to access solar. Today, one and a half million Californians have access to solar on their rooftops. Those Californians are out on the streets with us today, urging Gov. Newsom to keep solar growing for everyone under the sun,” said Dave Rosenfeld, Executive Director, Solar Rights Alliance. “We represent the voices of consumers, farmers, tenants, solar workers, small business owners, and climate advocates, calling on California to expand access to clean energy for all its residents and communities. Our coalition isn’t powered by investor-owned interests, greed, or preserving the status quo—it’s powered by people.”

CPUC Net Energy Metering Proceeding Background:

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is considering changes to net energy metering, the state policy that makes rooftop solar more affordable for consumers of all types by crediting them for the excess energy they produce and share with their neighbors.

Currently 1.5 million consumers use net metering, including thousands of public schools, churches and affordable housing developments, and it is the main driver of California’s world-renowned rooftop solar market. As a result of net metering, working and middle class neighborhoods are just under half of the rooftop solar market and the fastest growing segment today.

In total, distributed solar energy systems have added 13 gigawatts of solar energy to the state, roughly the size of six Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants. In addition, consumers have added nearly 1 gigawatt of energy storage which played a meaningful role in keeping the lights on during the recent heat wave.

Big utilities want to change the rules in their favor in order to eliminate a growing competitor, keep consumers stuck in utility monopolies, and protect their profits. Utilities claim solar makes the energy bills of non-solar customers more expensive. But in reality, utility profits, infrastructure investment, transmission lines, and paying for their bad planning and the fires they cause are what drives energy rates up. Californians are not fooled, and real equity champions know energy fairness is about “making rooftop solar panels and batteries more—not less—affordable for working families and lower-income Californians.”

Despite the overwhelming popularity of rooftop solar and net metering in California, the CPUC’s proposed decision released last December would have implemented a monthly solar penalty tax while also slashing credits consumers receive for their excess solar energy.

The unpopular proposed decision was shelved earlier this year after intense backlash and public disapproval from Governor Newsom.

With rooftop solar’s vital contribution to reaching California’s clean energy goals, the promise of battery storage for grid reliability, and new federal incentives for going solar, a diverse coalition of solar supporters are calling on the CPUC to keep solar growing and affordable for all types of consumers.