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California Solar Energy Plan Inspires Ads Mocking Utility

08/28/2013 07:00 pm 19:00:35

Progressive groups this week expanded an advertising campaign mocking Southern California Edison's position on rooftop solar power after the utility fired off a lawyer letter.

The Latino group Presente and the consumer group The Other 98% posted satirical ads online earlier this month that are meant to look like Edison is running them, with the headline, "Edison Hates Rooftop Solar."

"Rooftop solar saves you money," says an actor posing as a utility executive. "And that money comes from our bottom line."

Presente received a cease and desist letter from Edison's lawyers on Aug. 16, accusing the group of "false and misleading advertising" and "copyright infringement" for using the company logo in the ads. Presente responded to the letter by putting the ads on cable TV in Sacramento and the Central Valley on Tuesday.

The spat stems from proposed state legislation, AB 327, that would change the way net metering works for utility customers who generate solar power. Net metering allows homes and businesses that have rooftop solar systems to sell excess power back to the power company. The proposed legislation would likely reduce the amount that solar power users could earn from that power generation. Environmental and solar energy industry groups in the state oppose the legislation because it would reduce incentives to install solar systems.

Southern California Edison and other utilities in the state have sought changes to net metering, saying solar power users are not paying their fair share to cover grid and other infrastructure costs.

"It's not that Southern California Edison doesn't understand satire or First Amendment issues," said Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for the utility. "It's because there's a blatant misuse of our logo." McGrady also denied that Edison opposes solar power, noting that the company has invested in solar. "The issue for us is we want fairness in rates for all customers, and allegations that we're against solar or we hate solar are completely ridiculous."

Presente's net metering campaign focuses on getting Latino members of the California legislature to vote against the measure. The bill's sponsor, Henry Perea, is Latino.

"By airing this ad and other mobilization efforts, we will continue to demand that our elected representatives stand up to the big utilities and do what’s right," said Presente executive director Arturo Carmona in a statement. “Solar panel initiatives can bring savings to communities that need them the most–families that increasingly find themselves struggling to make ends meet.”

Utilities and solar installers have been brawling over net metering in in Arizona and several other states.

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