News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Video Mocks Utility Outreach to Latino Pols in Attempt to Squelch Solar

Still from Save Rooftop Solar's satire video | Photo: Save Rooftop Solar

[Update: SoCal Edison has responded with a cease and desist to take down the video. Read about it here.]

Solar advocates and California's utilities don't see eye-to-eye about how much power California should get from its rooftops. That's old news. But a group of environmental and economic democracy activists have taken the rhetorical battle to the next level. They're charging utilities with lobbying Latino politicians to restrict access to rooftop solar despite the fact that most California Latinos support more solar. And the groups are using satire as a weapon.

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"We know that the big utilities in California like Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric are heavily lobbying Latino leaders in the State Legislature," said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. "The utilities are trying to get Latino leaders to support efforts to obstruct California's rooftop solar growth. California Latino voters support rooftop solar by wide margins. Latino leaders in the state legislature should listen to Latino voters instead of siding with the big utilities."

Presente.org cites a recent bill introduced by Fresno-area Assembly member Henry T. Perea, AB 327, which would penalize ratepayers who have net-metered rooftop solar, reflecting a repeatedly-countered utility talking point that people who generate their own electricity aren't paying their fair share of the state's grid operation cost. Perea's bill would allow utilities to charge a monthly $10 fee for access to the grid, though that could be reduced to $5 a month for households making under 200 percent the state poverty line.

Presente.org points out that families asked to provide an additional $120 a year to the electric company might find that a disincentive to going solar. The group has teamed up with the Sierra Club's My Generation campaign and the economic democracy group The Other 98% to oppose bills like Perea's, and the coalition created an online petition along those lines.

But the aspect of the groups' campaign that's gotten the most attention online in the last 24 hours is this slick and savage little piece of satire aimed at Southern California Edison as a "proxy" for California for-profit utilities in general. (Opinions expressed in the video are, of course, those of the creators and not necessarily of KCETLink.)

"The big utilities have traditionally profited on dirty energy projects like natural gas, nuclear, and coal plants that line up their profits and pollute communities," said Allen Hernandez, of the Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign, echoing the message in the video. "They are focused on severely limiting our energy choices, keeping us tied to their old business model instead of doing what's in the best interest of everyday Californians."

"We're calling on elected leaders to stand tall against this assault by the dirty power industry," added John Sellers, Executive Director of The Other 98%. "California must continue to lead the way toward a clean energy revolution in America."

Whether or not you agree, you've got to admit making net metering policy funny is truly an accomplishment.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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