Nothing makes me appreciate electricity more than conferences and airports. I walk around the perimeters, eyes fixed to the ground (and my dwindling phone screen), looking for that unoccupied little power outlet of opportunity that will allow me to stay connected all day (maybe? We can only hope).
Listening to naysayers talk about trumped-up “problems” with solar energy, one would think that we’re going to be stuck with the same antiquated, centralized electricity system for ages. But that’s just not the case, particularly because of solar. In fact, we all have the opportunity to procure our own solar power strips, so to speak. Distributed rooftop solar can now be accessed by Californians of all walks of life through programs that take care of the initial installation costs, leaving users to enjoy the long term advantages. In fact, according to a July 2012 California Solar Initiative report, two-thirds of home solar installations now occur in low and median income neighborhoods.
Unfortunately for us, monopoly utilities have gotten themselves a sweet deal that guarantees healthy profits at the expense of ratepayer’s wallets and health, so you can imagine they’re not about to give it up without a fight. And fight they have, doing their best to hinder and obstruct a new energy source because it cuts into the profits they make out of building, maintaining (well, how much of this goes on is clearly debatable) and running their large-scale infrastructure. Their latest efforts are focused on eliminating net energy metering, a successful policy in 43 states that gives solar customers fair credit for the energy they put back on the grid.
I asked Refugio Mata – a long time community organizer in East Los Angeles and the spokesperson for My Generation (Sierra Club’s clean energy campaign in California) www.sierraclub.org/mygeneration about this: “Instead of trying to inhibit or kill the growth of rooftop solar in California, utilities should be doing everything they can to enable Californians from all walks of life to be part of the clean energy solution. When we install solar panels on our roofs, we are creating good, local jobs. Solar panels help make the transition from dirty to clean energy possible. By replacing fossil fuel energy with rooftop solar panels we also help to clean up the air we breathe and protect the health of California’s most vulnerable communities”
Speaking of protecting the health of Californians, that’s exactly what a new organization called Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy (CAUSE) has set out to do. CAUSE is co-chaired by California physicians like Dr. Luis Pacheco, Medical Director of the Transitional Care Unit at California Hospital Medical Center and Dr. Deonza Thymes, board certified Emergency Medicine physician and CEO and founder of Healthfly Inc. The group believes rooftop solar should remain a core part of California communities and our economy, and that it should not be stifled to protect utility profits.
We need to consider and evaluate the full value of all energy sources available and encourage consumers to make their own choices without any high-handed, political, backroom deals tilting the balance against a choice that is clearly rising in popularity. For example, a recent study by Crossborder Energy on the value of net energy metering shows that it will deliver more than $92 million per year to all California ratepayers and the grid. It’s good for our health, and a financial benefit. Condescending attitudes from utilities, masked as concern, will do nothing to help the communities that fossil fuel providers claim to worry about. Clean air, well-paid local jobs and cost-efficient rooftop solar energy can go much further in this regard.