On today's BradCast, Paul Ryan gets on board the 'Trump Train', polls remain tight before the California Primary (and continue to give a big edge to Sanders against The Donald), and sudden changes to public policy by both Democratic and Republican elected officials continue to undermine the otherwise booming rooftop solar market across the country. [Audio link to show posted at end of article.]
First up: It's official! U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is now all in on the 'Trump Train' after weeks of pretending that maybe he wouldn't be. Then, still more polls in California show Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders virtually tied in the state in advance of next Tuesday's Primary, while the same polls continue to show Sanders doing far better against Donald Trump than Clinton does.
Next, after an electric utilities district in the desert near Palm Springs suddenly closed off an important 'net metering' program for new residential rooftop solar customers (which had allowed those residents to recoup their investment by selling back unused clean energy to the utility company), CA Democrats in the state Assembly quietly kill a bill that would have corrected the problem. There is still no explanation from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the Appropriations Committee Chair, as to why she shelved AB 2329 last Friday before the holiday weekend, despite the problem which has left some residents on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in solar investments.
But a similar problem is happening in states all over the country, as utility companies begin to freak out at the plummetting cost and growing popularity of residential rooftop solar energy. We're joined today by the Brookings Institution's Mark Muro, whose new report finds that, despite utility company and fossil fuel industry claims to the contrary, "the economic benefits of net metering actually outweigh the costs and impose no significant cost increase for non-solar customers."
"We do think it is a canard to say there is this huge shift of costs to non-solar people," Muro tells me. "If anything, solar households are benefiting the grid."
We covered some similar territory on The BradCast in January, after "catastrophic" new fees on solar owners, levied by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval's appointees on the state's Public Utilities Commission, crushed the industry and killed hundreds of jobs there. Brookings' reports solar installations have "plunged 92 percent in Nevada in the first quarter of 2016," thanks to the sudden policy change after remarkably booming growth in sunny Nevada's market in the years prior.
"The uncertainty created by the Nevada decision absolutely shut down solar installation in Nevada," Muro explains. "But it's also been part of a chilling nationally. In the first quarter of this year, there's been, for no apparent reason, a massive slowdown in permitting and installation. I think the uncertainty that's been created here --- and especially the retroactive effect in Nevada --- has created a real question mark nationally for homeowners. So, I think we do have a problem. Installation depends on stable policy, and now policy is looking unstable."
We discuss what and who may be behind this "chill throughout the entire system" and what residents and voters can do to help restore stabilitity to the politics and policy currently harming an otherwise booming residential solar market amidst our planet's worsening climate crisis.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with coverage of Donald Trump's recent, amazing, "everything but the unicorns" energy speech and his remarkable explanation for why he believes there's not really a drought at all in the state of California...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)