A new group is advocating for the use of solar energy in California, and is dedicated to keeping solar rooftop panels in place despite efforts of utility companies. CAUSE stands for Californians Against Utilities Stopping solar Energy, and is already taking an active role in the solar energy discussion.
The group is co-chaired by two doctors based in Los Angeles, Luis Pacheco and Deonza Thymes. Pacheco, who is medical director of the Transitional Care Unit at California Hospital Medical Center and also worked for the USC-Keck School of Medicine, says solar power has many economic and health benefits.
"Ending rooftop solar in California would be a disaster for local job growth and environmental sustainability," he said in a statement. "It would mean more carbon-emitting power sources and more dirty air. That's not a path toward the long-term wellness and economic health that our state needs."
CAUSE leaders say the three major utility companies in California (PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE) want to end a metering system that credits solar customers who supply power to the grid. This system, called net energy metering, would provide more than $92 million each year in benefits to customers in the three utility companies' service areas, according to a recent report by Crossborder Energy.
Solar power also helps preserve our health as well as our environment, says Thymes, who works at Western Medical Center's Department of Emergency Medicine in Anaheim. "I grew up in a part of Los Angeles that is affected disproportionately by dirty air," she said. "I became a physician, in part, to help people with health conditions caused by pollutants. Now that we are making progress with solar, the utilities are trying to turn back the clock. They should be helping to give Californians the choice to go solar."
Solar power has gained a strong foothold in the state. More than 1,400 megawatts of rooftop solar installations are in place in California-two-thirds of residential installations have taken place in low- and median-income neighborhoods, according to the July 2012 California Solar Initiative. CAUSE also says that the solar industry has created more than 43,000 jobs in California and created $10 billion in private investment during the last five years. Net energy metering, they argue, is critical to that growth.
CAUSE is also part of a new effort on behalf of several environmental and civic groups urging Los Angeles to get 20 percent of its energy from rooftop solar installations by 2020.