A path to a clean energy future

California has bought time to save rooftop solar with the California Public Utility Commission’s recent delay in making changes to net metering. But much of this debate has gone unnoticed.

For those who didn’t follow this, the CPUC released a proposal to reduce solar incentives, which would have been a blow to customers and the industry. The proposed changes were intended to reduce the subsidy given to solar customers, with the commission noting that low-income residents and small businesses currently pay an unfair amount of such subsidies.

But the change was too big and too fast. Sonoma Clean Power opposed this and is working to increase the long-term value of customer-owned solar energy so that we can get out of this argument.

There shouldn’t be fair prices for rooftop solar. We can do both.

Today, new solar energy that feeds into the grid in the middle of the day is of little value except in the warmer months when air conditioning generates peak energy needs in the middle of the day. To restore value to solar power on rooftops, Sonoma Clean Power is working to help customers install heat pump water heaters that can use solar power exactly when it is generated at the instead of letting it flow through the network. We also advocate for favorable tariffs for charging electric cars when the sun is shining. Yet there is much more we can do to bring back the value of solar power.

The critical problem is that there is not enough battery storage and overnight renewable energy to ensure California can shut down polluting natural gas power plants. Adding more solar power doesn’t solve this problem on its own, as it doesn’t get us through long, cloudy winter storms. Plus, he keeps all those gasworks idling every day just to power up in the evening when the sun goes down.

To address this issue, Sonoma Clean Power has launched an effort to build large-scale batteries and explore the potential of new water-efficient geothermal energy to fulfill the promise of a truly clean power grid. More solar power, combined with batteries and geothermal energy, has the potential to end our dependence on fossil fuels.

Imagine what your life could be like with your home and car running entirely on renewable energy. For many of us, this is within reach, and we are committed to finding the money to make it possible for all. From a local perspective, backing up rooftop solar with 24/7 geothermal power and batteries is our best option to achieve 100% renewable energy.

If you want to help out, try an electric car. Ending the use of gasoline is the single biggest action you can take to address the climate crisis. Then sign up for EverGreen at SonomaCleanPower.org. By switching to EverGreen, you can nearly eliminate emissions from your electricity usage. EverGreen is the only locally produced, 100% renewable energy program that operates 24/7 in California. And if you want some extra credit, head to the Advanced Energy Center at 741 Fourth St. in downtown Santa Rosa, where you can see how to electrify your entire life. Come visit to learn more about new clean energy technologies.

The CPUC seems to recognize the flaws in its proposal. They heard our voices and took a step back to reconsider. We are happy to see this and will continue to advocate for them to make it right.

In the meantime, let’s restore the value of solar energy and stop this controversy.

Geof Syphers is CEO of Sonoma Clean Power, a public electric utility serving most of Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

You can send letters to the editor to [email protected]

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