Physicians Unite with Solar Energy Companies to Form New Group: Californians Against Utilities Stopp

A coalition of public health leaders and solar energy companies has formed CAUSE (Californians Against Utilities Stopping solar Energy) to combat monopoly utility efforts to kill rooftop solar. CAUSE is dedicated to maintaining a thriving solar industry in California, and to promoting the health and economic benefits that solar delivers to all Californians.

The state's investor-owned utilities—PG&E, SDG&E and SCE—are trying to end net energy metering (NEM), a successful policy in 43 states that gives consumers fair credit for the solar they deliver to the grid.  In simple terms, it's like rollover minutes on your cell phone bill. The utilities have taken aim at net metering to keep customers from taking action that would save ratepayers and taxpayers money while protecting public health. A January study by Crossborder Energy found that net metering will provide more than $92 million in annual benefits to ratepayers of California's three investor-owned utilities. 

Los Angeles-area physicians Luis Pacheco and Deonza Thymes are serving as co-chairs of CAUSE to help preserve Californians' ability to switch to clean solar electricity. 

"Ending rooftop solar in California would be a disaster for local job growth and environmental sustainability," said CAUSE co-Chair Dr. Luis Pacheco. "It would mean more carbon-emitting power sources and more dirty air. That's not a path toward the long-term wellness and economic health that our state needs."

Dr. Pacheco is currently Medical Director of the Transitional Care Unit at California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles. He has also served as Director of Pre-Doctoral Education for the Department of Family Medicine at the USC-Keck School of Medicine.  Pacheco has been recognized for his public health advocacy by the American Diabetes Association, the National Head Start Educational Program, and the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine's Family Medicine Teaching Program.

"I grew up in a part of Los Angeles that is affected disproportionately by dirty air," added co-Chair Dr. Deonza Thymes. "I became a physician, in part, to help people with health conditions caused by pollutants. Now that we are making progress with solar, the utilities are trying to turn back the clock. They should be helping to give Californians the choice to go solar."

Dr. Thymes is a lead physician at Western Medical Center's Department of Emergency Medicine in Anaheim, CA. She completed her Emergency Medicine residency at King/Drew Medical Center in south central Los Angeles and holds a medical degree from Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Thymes is a frequent guest speaker at Los Angeles area health fairs, churches, and schools, lecturing on topics from health and aging to diabetes and diet/nutrition.

As people use more rooftop solar, they buy less electricity from utilities. By trying to stop rooftop solar, utilities are betraying public health and economic benefits to protect their profits.Two-thirds of California home solar installations now occur in low and median income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 California Solar Initiative report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission.

California has installed more than 1,400 MW of rooftop solar capacity – the equivalent of nearly three dirty, coal-fired power plants.  This solar electricity is pollution-free and generated from an inexhaustible source.  The California solar industry employs more than 43,000 workers and has driven $10 billion in private investment in the state over the past five years. Industry analysts credit net metering as the cornerstone policy for continued solar growth. 

"We are proud to stand with California companies like Sunrun, SolarCity, and others in our community to save solar and the green economy," continued Dr. Thymes.  "More rooftop solar means cleaner air, and healthier communities. That's something we can all stand behind."

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