Protestors tell state "Don't Tax the Sun" outside PG&E's SLO office
Solar supporters, workers, and climate activists met to protest new changes that could come to solar panel owners in California on July 26 outside the Pacific, Gas, and Electric office in San Luis Obispo.
The protest is in response to the California Public Utilities Commission's consideration of reducing the rate homeowners with solar panels receive when they send extra power back to the statewide power grid.
The protesters met on the corner of Higuera and Marsh in Downtown SLO with signs and red t-shirts saying, “Don’t Tax the Sun.”
“We need as many incentives to get people
away from toxic, outdated types of dirty fuels and onto the renewable energy future that we all want and deserve,” said Heidi Harmon, SLO’s former mayor and the current Senior Public Affairs Director of Let’s Green California.
Harmon said incentives play a huge role in renewable energy and the disincentives – such as this proposal, which she feels could keep people from being able to afford solar energy.
“Frankly, PG&E has done everything in its power to keep all meaningful climate action from happening in the state of California for decades now,” said Harmon.
Glenn Covert, an Executive Partner of AM Solar in Paso Robles, says when he started working with the company in 2011, they only had five employees. Now, they have 72.
“They're all well-paid. They have families, they all own homes, they're all part of the community,” he said.
Utilities like PG&E argue the proposal would fix an imbalance where solar owners do not pay their share of grid maintenance costs, which they say are then shifted to non-solar customers. But others argue that incentives for solar power help keep the grid stable by adding more renewable energy to the mix.
At the protest, Destiny Rivas, the chairwoman for the San Joaquin Urban Native Tribal Council spoke and reflected on the last time her community went through a PG&E power outage.
“They went six days without power, and it happened to be a cold front. We had people who died, and that's a sad fact because they weren't able to keep their pacemaker on,” Rivas said.
She said after facing many blackouts in the community, solar is what saved them. She feels because of that, this proposal makes no sense. “This is a sad fact that energy is life right now. And PG&E is threatening it,” she said.
PG&E told the online energy publication Utility Dive that the current solar incentive system has “resulted in deep inequities between customers with rooftop solar and those without.” The CPUC has been considering this proposal for months and it isn’t clear when a final decision will be made.