Late Tuesday evening, Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in on a controversial topic in California: the state’s solar tax proposal. Musk tweeted that California’s proposal was a “bizarre anti-environment move by govt of California.”


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California solar proposal backlash

On Monday, Tesla, which sells solar roofs and solar panels, launched a web page to enable people to complain to Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about the proposal:

Tell Governor Newsom and the CPUC to reject the proposed solar tax and retroactive changes to existing solar customers.

Encourage the Public Utilities Commission to reject a proposed punitive tax on solar customers and retroactive changes to existing customers. 

The CPUC’s controversial NEM 3.0 proposal, which is expected to be voted on later this month, imposes fees on solar and battery storage customers, which would make solar and storage more costly. NEM 3.0 would reduce the bill credit solar customers get for selling electricity back to the grid. As Electrek reported on January 3:

The credit for energy that residential solar owners put back into the grid would be slashed to a wholesale rate of about $0.04 per kWh.

On top of slashing net metering rates, the NEM 3.0 proposal adds a new fixed monthly charge for solar owners of $8 per kW installed on their roof.

It means that someone with a 10 kW system has to pay $80 per month to their electric utility just to stay connected to the grid and send back electricity at a new lower rate.

At a press conference on Monday, Newsom expressed concern about the proposal, which is backed by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. All are investor-owned electric utilities. Bloomberg reported yesterday about that press conference:

“I’ll say this about the plan, we still have some work to do,” Newsom said. He later added that he thinks changes will need to be made to the proposal that’s expected to be voted on later this month by state utility regulators. He didn’t say what those changes would be.

In a statement released yesterday, the Environmental Working Group‘s president and California resident Ken Cook weighed in on Newsom’s statement:

We welcome the governor’s comments and respectfully urge him to use his voice and full authority to stop the ill-conceived plan. It is clearly meant to increase profits for the utilities and crush the only competition they now face – the competition from Californians who are investing to install solar panels and, increasingly, battery storage on homes, businesses, schools and in communities.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) stated in an email on December 13 that “this decision will deter many Californians from installing rooftop solar and storage and slow clean energy deployment, leaving the state’s grid vulnerable to blackouts and power outages, and harming California’s ability to reach its clean energy goals.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA, said then in a written statement:

Only the wealthiest Californians will be able to afford rooftop solar, shutting out schools, small businesses, and the average family from our clean energy future.

The only winners today are the utilities, which will make more profits at the expense of their ratepayers. We urge Governor Newsom to act quickly to change this decision — at risk are 65,000 solar jobs, the security of our electricity grid, and the health of California residents and our planet.

Electrek’s Take

We at Electrek advocate for clean energy, so of course we think NEM 3.0 is a terrible idea. The State of California needs to put its citizens and the environment first if we are going to continue the race to combat climate change.

Musk weighing in is only going to help fight this misguided proposal. Newsom needs to do the right thing and kill it.

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About the Author

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.