17,000 solar jobs lost due to CPUC’s drastic net metering cuts – largest in the nation’s modern history

CALIFORNIA—Together with local business and environmental leaders, the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) shared a new analysis on the impact of the recently adopted deep cutbacks to rooftop solar incentives on California’s progress toward 100% renewable energy, small businesses and green jobs.

Download CALSSA’s solar industry analysis

Watch recording of webinar media briefing 

Just over six months ago the Governor Newsom-appointed California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made drastic reductions to Net Energy Metering — the program responsible for reducing the costs of going solar and making California a solar leader — by slashing the value of solar energy shared back to the grid by solar homes and businesses by 70-80% overnight.

Since the CPUC’s decision, the solar industry has experienced devastating results in the form of business closures and depression-level layoffs at a time when California should be celebrating a golden age of clean energy growth.

“CPUC commissioners claimed their decision was about ‘launching the solar and storage industry into the future.’ Instead they caused the nation’s largest-ever loss of clean energy jobs, pushed once thriving businesses out of the state or into bankruptcy, and derailed California’s fastest and most accessible path to a clean energy future. All as California holds itself out there as a world leader in the fight against climate change,” said CALSSA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro.

A survey of California solar and storage companies found 17,000 jobs have or will be lost by the end of 2023 due the recent net metering changes. The massive job loss represents 22% of all solar jobs in California. More pain is expected as 59% of residential solar and storage contractors anticipate further layoffs, and another 11% are still unsure.

The CPUC’s changes left an uncertain future for solar businesses. 70% of residential solar and storage contractors expressed concern about their business outlook. Nearly 43% (~300 companies) believe it will be difficult to stay in business this winter.

“There is no way to launch an industry forward by making its products more expensive for consumers. The overwhelming reason customers go solar is to save money. When you take away the ability for consumers to save money it puts a brick wall in front of our whole industry,” said Carlos Beccar with Energy Concepts in Fresno. “We have laid off 50% of our workforce since the new rules came into effect”, Beccar added.

With most solar companies being small and medium sized businesses, and with solar jobs being family-supporting career paths, the impact of closures and layoffs ripple across every community in California.

The CPUC’s changes to net metering are also pushing California off its path to meeting renewable energy goals that are critical to the fight against climate change. To reach 100% renewable energy, California needs 3.5 times more solar energy than it has today. Rooftop solar, today, makes up half of the state’s solar market and is the fastest growing among all renewable energy markets. A resilient and reliable energy grid for an electrified future will require 7 times more energy storage capacity than the state holds today yet solar energy drives storage development.

Those goals now appear out of reach as changes to net metering slammed the brakes on California’s solar and storage progress. Rooftop solar sales are down between 66% and 83% from the same time last year following the implementation of net metering changes.

“Every sunny roof without a solar panel is a missed opportunity to power our society more cleanly and efficiently. These numbers shine a light on how recent cuts to solar incentives are slowing down the adoption of clean energy, when California instead should be speeding up solar and storage deployment to achieve its goal of becoming a state powered by 100% clean and renewable sources.” said Laura Deehan, Environment California Director.

Despite the consequences, the CPUC continues to move in the wrong direction on solar. Two weeks ago the CPUC voted to stifle the growth of solar again, this time making solar unaffordable for multimeter properties like schools, farms, small businesses, and apartments.

Solar leaders shared ways for California to get its flagship renewable energy industry back on track, including rejecting proposals to make solar even more expensive for working and middle-class families by implementing expensive monthly fixed charges, which are currently under consideration at the CPUC. Industry leaders also called on cities and counties to cut red tape for utilities to eliminate connection delays, all of which make solar more costly for consumers and businesses alike. To jump-start the future of energy storage, solar advocates urged California leaders to think big by launching a “Million Solar Batteries Initiative” with a massive investment to make energy storage affordable for all types of consumers.