Fight over California’s rooftop solar program heads to state Supreme Court

By Wes Venteicher | 04/11/2024 06:43 AM EDT

The state’s highest court agreed to hear environmental groups’ challenge to the California Public Utilities Commission’s 2022 net-energy metering decision.

Two electricians install solar panels on a roof.

Electricians install solar panels on a roof in Goodyear, Arizona. Matt York/AP

A dispute over the value of rooftop solar is going to the California Supreme Court, which agreed Wednesday to hear a challenge from environmental groups to a 2022 California Public Utilities Commission decision.

What happened: The state’s highest court agreed to hear the Center for Biological Diversity and two other groups’ appeal of a lower appellate court’s December ruling that upheld the CPUC’s decision to slash rooftop solar reimbursements in its net energy metering program by about 75 percent.

Why it matters: The development is a victory for the solar industry and some environmental groups who are pushing on multiple fronts for California to make small-scale solar power a central part of its transition to clean energy along with utility-scale renewables. CBD senior attorney Roger Lin called it a “ray of hope” for the rooftop solar industry, which has been buffeted by layoffs and bankruptcies.


Background: When the CPUC reduced the reimbursements, commissioners said the higher payments of the past had served their purpose of growing a mature rooftop market in the state. Since the programs are subsidized by people without panels (to the tune of $6.5 billion per year, according to a recent analysis), it was time to reduce them, commissioners said.