2016: A Look Ahead at the Year in Government

California has long been a leader in the development of solar-energy technologies, thanks not only to its sunny weather but to state-backed environmental incentives. But even as the governor and legislators embrace more aggressive greenhouse-gas-reduction goals, the rooftop solar business faces a push back. It’s the same dynamic described earlier, as utilities claim solar companies are receiving unfair subsidies while solar companies complain about efforts to slow their growth.

Utilities face new competition — including green and solar options, which are gaining in popularity and don’t require some traditional, fixed costs.

With high rates from traditional utilities and favorable state laws, the solar industry is soaring and utilities are pushing back. “Solar is the victim of its own success,” said Robert Michaels, an economics professor and energy expert at Cal State Fullerton. He says utilities are facing a threat to their basic business model and are finding it tougher to set rates in the same old way with these new competitors.

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