California approves controversial solar plan in Sacramento

California approves controversial solar plan in Sacramento

Some consumer groups and solar advocates are flustered by a controversial solar plan devised by SMUD. With a 5-0 vote Thursday, the California Energy Commision approved the SMUD community solar plan known as Neighborhood SolarShares.

Under the plan, consumers can harness the energy of the sun in a different way. Instead of installing solar panels on all new housing construction as required under a new state law, with the vote, home builders have the option to provide energy to consumers from solar farms already hooked up to the electricity grid.

The plan is designed to make new homes more affordable.

The California Energy Commission said it’s good public policy for the state.

“I think it makes it easier for folks to comply with our solar mandate,” said David Hochschild, chair of the commission. “It’s going to be part of how we build a clean energy future. We’re going to do rooftop solar, we’re going to do utility-scale solar and now, because of this program, we’re doing community solar as well.”

But David Rosenfeld, of Solar Rights Alliance, disagreed.

“With SMUD’s proposal, those homes are not going to save that money,” he said. “So in the long run — actually in the medium run — those homeowners are going to be paying more for energy bills. So, this is worse for the consumer.”

Rosenfeld explained homeowners will be locked into a 20-year contract with SMUD buying energy from the solar farms.

“The credit that they’re going to be getting from SMUD is just a fraction of the cost of what they’d be getting if they just had solar on their rooftop,” he added.

But, SMUD insists the new plan benefits consumers in the long run.

“We are guaranteeing the solar output to this for new homes for 20 years, regardless of rain or shine,” said Ed Hamazawi, SMUD’s director or advanced energy solutions. “It absolves homeowners from having to worry about maintenance of their system, cleaning of their system, break down of panels.”