Valley Voices

Tate Hill: Rooftop solar benefits our economy and public health

California is the home of innovative industries and the next great technologies that can change the world. As president of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, I know how important smart policies are to help businesses succeed and for innovation to reach all communities.

This is why I am paying close attention to the ongoing review by the state Public Utilities Commission of California’s solar policies. Across the country, especially here in California, solar is growing rapidly and bringing with it good-paying jobs for workers and innovative products for consumers.

California leads the nation in solar not just because of our sunny skies, but because we have the best policies intended to help this industry grow and for Californians of all income levels to benefit from its product. This is especially the case in the Central Valley as we see more and more families go solar.

Late last year, the Public Utilities Commission proposed to largely keep intact Net Energy Metering, the cornerstone rooftop solar policy. Net metering allows homeowners, schools, businesses, churches and other consumers to take control of their energy expenses and reduce costs. It pays solar customers full retail rate for the excess energy they provide back to the grid. This excess clean energy is then utilized by their neighbors, reducing the need for utility power plants to produce energy from dirty sources of power.

Rooftop solar reduces the need for unhealthy fossil fuel infrastructure, which prevents children from being exposed to mercury and other harmful emissions. This is especially important for communities of color – a disproportionate number of whom live within 30 miles of a power plant.

According to the White House, by employing cleaner energy solutions, such as solar, we have the ability to significantly improve the health of all communities, which can result in avoiding each year: 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed work and school days.

Cleaner sources of energy mean healthier workers and communities. This is a clear win-win for all Californians.

Going solar saves money for business owners small and large, like the ones the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce represents. As utility costs rise each year, rooftop solar can help businesses control costs and have more certainty on their expenses. Net metering has also supported more than $10 billion in private investment and has helped create more than 50,000 jobs across the state.

Promoting innovation is never easy. There are many interests that need to be balanced and factors weighed. We have an opportunity to redefine energy, public health and our local economies through rooftop solar. I applaud the PUC for its efforts thus far to preserve net metering.

I encourage the commissioners to vote for the proposed decision. It’s good for our businesses, our communities and our workforce.

Tate Hill is president of the Fresno Black Chamber of Commerce.