News from Sacramento

California Needs Affordable Rooftop Solar

We all know our climate stands on the brink of disaster. Fixing that will be no easy feat, but it’s clear where the challenge ends and begins. We must reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and we must stop setting our own planet on fire. That’s so much harder than it sounds. But there are two obvious steps that eco-conscious consumers can make, especially as the price comes down on both: making the transition to an electric vehicle and installing solar electricity systems. Both of these are wonderful transitions to make and are good for our environment.

The problem, however, is that recent policy decisions at the state level have cut solar off at its knees. Solar currently produces 27% of all electricity in California. And as consumers make the transition to electric vehicles and all-electric homes, our electricity use is expected to rise 80% in the next 20 years. We cannot meet that demand if we are not expanding rapidly the use of solar. And until 2022, we were doing that. Solar was the fastest-growing source of electricity in California. Then the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), after intense and heavy lobbying by corporate electricity providers, decided to revisit the state’s solar policies. The end result disregards guidance provided by the legislature and slashes incentives that had made solar affordable for many consumers.

Since the inception of rooftop solar, homeowners have functionally been their own utility companies. So long as the sun is shining, solar creates electricity throughout the day. The excess amount not used by the homeowner is added to the grid. That excess energy is then able to be sold by the local utility company. Since that excess energy was not created by the utility company, but rather by the homeowner, the homeowner is given a credit for that energy they produced. Those excess credits do two things: they reduce the electricity bill that the homeowner is expected to pay and, most importantly, those credits help subsidize the large upfront cost of the solar panels making installing solar panels affordable.

It is those credits that have enabled homeowners to afford solar. It is also those credits that the CPUC reduced by 75%. The CPUC also added a requirement that residential solar owners install a battery to store the excess energy they produce rather than put the excess energy into the grid, which does make sense. However, those batteries cost $30,000 on average. After the CPUC passed both of these changes, solar installation in California fell by 80%. And solar companies began mass layoffs.

The CPUC tries to be thoughtful. Balancing industry and homeowner concerns is hard. Policy is complicated but we cannot meet our climate goals without solar energy. We must make solar affordable for homeowners again.

I introduced AB 2256 to do just that. This bill will require the CPUC to revisit its solar policies and take into account affordability, the environment and other social benefits to rooftop solar. Making these small tweaks is essential and will result in greater affordability and accessibility for consumers. A healthy and affordable solar market also means the solar industry can bring back the jobs already lost. AB 2256 is an essential, must-pass bill. Our consumers deserve the protection and our economy and climate deserve the green energy and jobs that come with it.

What are your thoughts on AB 2256? As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on our budget, legislation or any general comments or concerns. You can reach my District Office at (818) 558-3043, or by email at:

Laura Friedman represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.