The battles over public power have raged for decades in San Francisco, as many people have wanted PG&E out and a public power system which emphasized renewable energy in. Well, yesterday’s decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was, in many ways, a backdoor way of allowing the public to take greater control of the grid. The plan, called “net energy metering,” will allow more homeowners with solar panels installed to sell their excess power back to the utilities, providing yet another incentive for solar panel installation. The utilities are understandably up in arms, claiming that the plan means those selling power back to the grid are shifting maintenance costs for the grid onto other rate payers and the utilities. What’s at heart here is what role Californians believe a utility should play. If the CPUC believes a utility is just there to provide a stable grid, and that power generation can come from anywhere, that’s a radically different view that reduces the role of the utility. Though it also opens up the possibility of consumers rethinking their role in generating the power we’re all dependent on.