Solar advocates in San Diego and across the state had a very good week.

On Tuesday, they cheered the approval of a Climate Action Plan, which calls for San Diego to get all its energy from renewable sources by 2035, and a proposed state Public Utilities Commission decision that largely maintains a sweet deal for solar customers.

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That deal is a state-mandated agreement known as net energy metering, which requires utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric to pay solar customers retail rates for the power their panels produce. That lets solar customers reduce – or even eliminate – their power bills and helped California become the most solar-powered state in the nation.

SDG&E and other utilities in the state had lobbied to credit new customers at the wholesale rate – much less than utilities’ top retail rates – and tack on new charges to ensure solar converts help support the energy grid. SDG&E has said it now must shift more than $160 million annually in costs tied to solar customers to non-solar ones.

The proposed decision largely went the solar industry’s way. If the commission approves the new program next month, future solar converts will still pull in retail rates for the energy they produce. They will, however, have to foot the bill for a one-time interconnection fee and have to start covering the cost of utility programs that assist with energy-efficiency upgrades and low-income users. The commission is expected to vote on the proposal Jan. 28.

One of the state’s top solar lobbying groups was quick to invite Gov. Jerry Brown to its party.

“Gov. Brown’s PUC is standing up for clean power and for customers by proposing to reject the utilities’ attempts to make solar out of reach for customers,” California Solar Energy Industries Association executive director Bernadette Del Chiaro said.

Utilities, on the other hand, weren’t too pleased. SDG&E vowed to oppose the proposal in its own statement.

“Californians deserve better,” the utility wrote in a statement. “They deserve a program that balances the interests and needs of all utility customers while supporting and fueling the increased adoption of clean energy technologies such as solar to help improve air quality and our environment.”

In other words, prepare for a showdown.

Lisa Halverstadt

Labor Council Sitting Out Atkins-Block Race

Primary voters trying to decide between Marty Block and Toni Atkins in the 39th District state Senate race won’t be getting any help from the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.

The umbrella group for local unions decided not to endorse anyone in the race.

Mickey Kasparian, the Labor Council’s president, said Atkins and Block have almost the same voting records.

“There’s not a bad decision here,” he said.

The endorsement would have been one way for Block and Atkins to set one apart from the other.

Atkins, the speaker of the state Assembly, is challenging Block, who was elected to the Senate seat in 2012. Some Democrats have said the matchup is an unfortunate use of Democrats’ time and money and wish it could be avoided.

Laura Fink, spokeswoman for Atkins’ campaign, said the campaign respects the Labor Council’s decision but plans to seek the support of individual unions.

Block’s website lists endorsements from two statewide unions – including the California Federation of Teachers and the California Teamsters.

Atkins’ campaign said she has labor endorsements so far from the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 36.

So far, no Republican has filed to run in the Senate race. Because of the state’s “top two” primary system, Block and Atkins could end up facing each other twice, once in the June primary and again in November.

Ry Rivard

Gonzalez Previews ‘Gig Economy’ Workers Bill

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez offered the Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton details of a bill she plans to introduce in the New Year, one that attempts to regulate an issue that’s surfaced for workers in what Skelton calls the “gig economy” – people who work for apps like Uber and aren’t necessarily considered employees of whatever app secures their business.

The bill would “create a new organizing tool that allows groups of gig workers to collectively bargain with the company operating the app.”

Skelton notes that it’ll be an uphill climb: “But even if it passed, Gov. Jerry Brown probably would be tempted to side with business and labor, vetoing the measure.” Even Gonzalez agrees: “I’m hoping I don’t get beat up by everybody. But I’m used to that.”

Gonzalez’s bill won’t be the only time legislators venture into the brave new world of the sharing economy. One state senator has vowed to try again on a bill addressing Airbnb rentals, and several tabled bills that attempt to regulate Uber in various ways – like requiring background checks for drivers – could be revived.

What San Diego Reps Are Up to

A senior adviser to Assemblywoman Toni Atkins plans to run for chair of the state Democratic Party. (Sacramento Bee) And Snoopy license plates are coming soon, thanks to a bill Atkins wrote. (NBC San Diego)

 Assemblyman Rocky Chavez spoke to Fox News Latino about his chances in the U.S. Senate race.

 State Republicans have managed to carve out an issue where they’re gaining some traction, reports the Union-Tribune’s Steve Greenhut: education reform. Chavez, who has a bill aimed at reforming teacher tenure, spoke at a hearing on the issue this week. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, Greenhut notes, has been sharply critical of fellow Democrats on this issue, and wrote her own bill to reform tenure that was shelved earlier this year.

Golden State News

 The AP did the math on a San Diego court ruling that is now being applied statewide, and found: “Three-quarters of paroled sex offenders in California who were previously banned from living near parks, schools and other places where children congregate now face no housing restrictions.”

 This deep dive questions whether Gov. Jerry Brown is living up to his promise of reforming the California Public Utilities Commission. (KQED)

The future is now: California’s secretary of state has put out draft regulations for testing and operating self-driving cars.

 Dan Walters breaks down the ways in which new population estimates could affect state politics. (Sacramento Bee)

 A good explainer on what happens when a legislator up and quits. (CalMatters)

BYE-EEEEEE! (Until 2016)

I love you guys, but I hope that you have better things to do on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day than read the ol’ Sac Report. I do! (They include eating, football and also eating.) I’ll catch you back in action on Jan. 8. Merry Christmas!


Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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