The promise of making our own electricity from the sun, without producing pollution or writing a painful check to a utility every month, has been growing larger on the horizon for decades.
Now, that promise is about to be fulfilled. Rooftop solar technology has advanced so far and become so cheap, that, like the Internet and cell phones did, it is growing at an exponential rate: two thirds of all the solar energy in the world has been installed in the last three years. Economists expect rooftop solar energy to double again in the next two and a half years, then double again. And again. Remember how your telephone went from a landline, to the Zack Morris brick phone, to an iPhone 5 in what felt like no time at all? That’s what’s happening right now to the way we make electricity.
That energy revolution is a great news story for nearly everyone who lives on this planet – though not quite everyone. Utility companies in the US have grown fat and lazy thanks to protection from government regulators that they’ve neutered with political donations.
These companies are terrified that rooftop solar power will do to them what cell phones did to landline companies, digital cameras did to Polaroids, and the Internet has done to a million other kinds of commerce: make them obsolete. A January report from the utility industry’s own lobby group said rooftop solar power could cause “irreparable damages to revenues and growth prospects” of utilities.
So instead of innovating new ways to make money from solar power, utilities have decided to do everything in their power to block it. Their latest scheme is in California, where Southern California Edison (SCE) is trying to pass a solar tax of $10 per month to everyone with solar panels on their roof.
SCE’s trying to pay off Latino legislators there with campaign contributions, peddling the thinly veiled lie that the solar tax would – somehow – hurt low-income people who can’t afford solar panels. The truth, of course, is that solar energy helps low-income communities as much as anyone; low-income customers pay the highest electricity bills as a proportion of their income, and often suffer the worst pollution from dirty energy. Two-thirds of new solar installations in Southern California are now taking place in middle-class and low-income communities, says “Save Rooftop Solar”, the coalition of the Sierra Club, Presente.org and The Other 98% who are fighting back to stop SCE’s solar tax.
Save Rooftop Solar made the video above to expose SCE’s cynical campaign.
Now, SCE has filed a cease-and-decist letter to censor the video from the Internet, so you can’t see it.
“It’s not that Southern California Edison doesn’t understand satire or First Amendment issues,” said Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for the utility, told the Huffington Post. “It’s because there’s a blatant misuse of our logo.”
SCE doesn’t give two hoots about its logo, but it does want to protect its bottom line: this is all part of the company’s effort to slow down the solar revolution that threatens their very business model.
These kinds of battles are cropping up around the country. In North Carolina, Duke Energy taxes solar rooftops at $16/month, or almost $4,000 over the course of a solar array that lasts 20 years.
In Arizona and Colorado, other utilities are trying to make it harder for solar owners to profit from the excess energy they create.
If you live in California, you can help stop this charade. Sign the petition to stop the solar tax, and share the video to combat Southern California Edison’s effort to hide the truth.