Senators Wiener and Nielsen Join Homeowners, School Officials, and Farmers to Announce Bipartisan Legislation to Create Solar Bill of Rights for Consumers

February 19, 2019

Sacramento–Today, Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff) joined a large coalition of homeowners, school officials, farmers, and small businesses to announce bipartisan legislation aimed at creating a solar bill of rights to protect the right of consumers to generate and store their own clean energy on-site, without interference from utility companies. Senate Bill 288 enables more consumers to install and maintain renewable energy technologies by addressing some of the main barriers consumers currently face. These challenges include outdated tariffs that make it financially unattractive to install renewable energy technologies, including solar, and unreasonable barriers to connecting to the grid. Although known as the Solar Bill of Rights, SB 288 is technology neutral and applies to all renewable sources of energy and energy storage.

Currently, consumers — including everyday homeowners seeking to lower their electric bills, farmers who see solar as a reliable source of energy, and schools seeking to invest more in their students and less in their energy bills — face unnecessary obstacles and interference from utilities. For instance, many consumers who install on-site energy storage systems and are connected to the electric grid may at times receive no compensation at all for the additional electricity they are storing and putting back into the grid during the times of day when it is most needed. Instead, these same consumers could later be charged for electricity that they themselves discharged onto the electric grid. SB 288 requires the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Independent System Operator, and the board of publicly owned utilities around the state to update relevant tariffs to ensure fair compensation of these distributed energy resources (DERs).

“To fight climate change, California is moving aggressively to 100% renewable energy,” said Senator Wiener. “To meet our 100% renewable energy goal, we must make it easier for individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies to generate their own renewable energy. This legislation is about ensuring that we all have access to the benefits of solar and other sources of renewable energy. When our public agencies put up barriers to make it harder and less attractive to install renewable energy, we’re all worse for it. California needs to move away from a purely centralized, monopoly approach to energy in California. If we’ve learned anything from our push toward 100% renewable energy and from the recent wildfire disasters, it’s that we need both a diversity of energy sources and more decentralized energy generation. We must make it easier and more affordable — not harder and more expensive — to install and use these technologies.” 

“With solar energy being mandated for new homes, it is important for individual homeowners to have fair compensation for energy produced on their properties,” said Senator Nielsen.

The Solar Bill of Rights promotes energy independence by recognizing that all Californians have a right to:

●      Generate, store and use renewable energy on their property without interference from utility companies.

●      Interconnect their solar and storage to the grid quickly, without utility red tape.

●      Be free from discriminatory fees and charges associated with installing solar or storage technologies.

“Reliable and affordable electricity is critical to my business,” said Bill Carriere. “By investing in solar on my farm, I can save money and feel confident that I will have reliable, affordable power.  Electric utilities feel threatened by my right to produce my own power for my business, and we need the legislature to step in and make sure those rights can’t be taken away.”

"No one owns the sun,” said Madera homeowner Ramon Torres. “We all know the benefits of going solar but the right to tap into those benefits is not protected. The law should protect  my rights and the rights of my neighbors to go solar.”

"Solar energy has become an important part of managing our schools, saving us significant operational funds that can be much better spent on the educational needs of our kids," said Dr. Ken Testa, Director of Facilities for the Merced City School District. "But despite the state's commitment to solar energy, there are real barriers for consumers that need to be seriously addressed, particularly at the interconnection level."

The Solar Bill of Rights will also make it easier for storage customers to provide grid services with their battery, helping to create a more reliable electric grid and receive a fair credit in return.

"Every Californian has the right to make their own energy from the sun without the utility getting in the way, especially in these uncertain times," said Solar Rights Alliance Director Dave Rosenfeld. "The Solar Bill of Rights will guarantee those rights for everyone - homeowners, renters, farmers, businesses, schools - regardless of where you live or what you do. We're grateful to Senators Scott Wiener and Jim Nielsen for working together to stand up for our personal freedoms."

In addition to Senator Nielsen, SB 288 is co-authored by Senator Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), and Robert Rivas (D-Hollister). Over 50 people joined today’s announcement including dozens of solar workers, farmers, school officials, small business owners, disability rights activists, and organizations including Vote Solar, Solar Rights Alliance, California Solar & Storage Association, Brightline Defense, California Housing Partnership Corporation, and Environment California.

SB 288 was officially introduced on February 13 and will be set for a hearing in the coming months. For the full text of the bill, please click here.