Political tide turning against solar in California, warns ally

After a long run of legislative success, pro-renewables policies in California are facing “a very big push-back”, says one of the industry’s political champions.

“California was already way ahead of other states regarding our policies in both climate protection and renewables, but the last three years we did more,” says State Assembly member Nancy Skinner, a Democrat who has co-sponsored numerous bills for solar and other renewables and, most recently, legislation to open the market for energy storage.

“Now we are experiencing a very big push-back, from the utilities, from various companies,” she told a gathering of solar executives on the sidelines of Intersolar North America.

“It’s sort of like, ‘Oh, you’ve given those renewable people too much’. So there’s really a huge onslaught right now in [the state capital] Sacramento which is anti-solar, anti-renewable energy.”

The solar industry successfully argued before the California Public Utilities Commission for an increase in the state’s net-metering cap earlier this year, but this month, utility supporters pushed for legislation that would reverse the policy, which is crucial to residential and commercial project economics. The effort ultimately failed.

Skinner implored the industry to keep up the pressure.

“We have to be eternally vigilant,” she said, adding that Governor Jerry Brown “is with us, but the legislature right now is getting a bit shaky because they’re hearing so strongly from voices that¿ will benefit far more from sticking with dinosaurs”.