NEM 3.NO! A Sol Rebel Perspective

Like many solar and environmental groups, the Sol Rebel team strongly opposes the proposed NEM 3.0 decision from the CPUC released last week. Make no mistake, this is not about energy equity or keeping rates low for all Californians. The motivation behind this plan is simple: it is a profit grab by powerful utility companies, including PG&E, that already made a $4B profit last year while failing to properly maintain their existing infrastructure. And the timing of this decision is no mistake either: the release of the decision was intentionally delayed until after the gubernatorial election to ease the pressure on Gavin Newsom, who receives huge campaign donations from the state's independently owned utilities.

Sol Rebel supports policies that fully leverage the advantages of behind-the-meter solar and battery systems to meet climate goals, improve the resiliency of the electric grid, as well as our homes and businesses, and policies that optimize land use for renewable power generation. This revised NEM 3.0 plan decimates financial incentives for new behind-the-meter renewable energy projects by essentially eliminating all value of energy fed back to the grid. This plan would also eliminate any time-of-use value for energy export and thereby removes a key financial incentive for behind-the-meter energy producers to support the grid during times of peak power demands. Our state is already subject to rolling blackouts during times of peak demand. This ruling will only exacerbate the problem, which only serves to put the onus on the utilities to 'fix' the grid, allowing them to profit from those infrastructure improvements which could otherwise be avoided.

This ruling would also move the responsibility of meeting the state's climate goals almost exclusively to front-of-the-meter, utility-scale projects, which we clearly would need to build anyway, but also serve to consolidate wealth in the hands of fewer large corporations and have a myriad of land use issues.

We cannot ignore the environmental and land-use benefits of behind-the-meter projects that utilize existing roofs and parking lots rather than ground mount systems that either convert crop or range land to energy production or impact greenfield habitats. Utility-scale projects also have water use challenges as well, which is an incredibly important issue here in California.

Behind-the-meter distributed generation lays the groundwork for increased resiliency for homes, businesses, and critical facilities. And while we need the entire grid to be resilient, with improved transmission and distribution infrastructure, we also need to imagine a future where small segments of the grid can operate independently of the transmission grid in case of instability. These advanced microgrids could power all kinds of businesses and critical infrastructure through inevitable wide-scale grid disturbances. This future will be possible only if renewable energy projects exist closer to the loads they serve and not in some distant desert.

Commercial and residential projects are smaller and, in many ways, more complex to deploy and challenging to scale compared to utility-scale projects. These are problems that small and mid-sized independent contractors, engineering firms, and investors are well equipped to solve. This industry has been building over decades in California, and we are strong and poised for growth, but we need the state and the PUC to provide the appropriate incentives that are aligned with the goals of ALL Californians in order for us to maximize our contributions.

To be clear: Sol Rebel is able and ready to shift our business toward serving larger front-of-the-meter utility-scale projects; in fact, we work on a lot of them now and believe these are also important to meeting our climate goals. So this stance is not about the profits or continued existence of Sol Rebel - we will thrive and grow and profit regardless of this NEM decision. Our position written here is based on our deep belief in the issues outlined above.

Please join us in opposing this latest profit grab by huge corporations at the expense of our state's electric grid resilience, our land, and our grassroots, behind-the-meter solar industry.

You can read more about this new policy draft here.