California Senate Approves Million Solar Roofs Bill

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to install 3,000 MW of solar capacity by 2018, to generate 5% of the state's power at peak periods.

Published: 08-Jun-2005

StartFragment --> The California Million Solar Roofs bill (SB1) was approved by the senate by a vote of 28-to-3. Advocates estimate that 20,000 emails were sent to legislators in response to action alerts from 15 different public interest, environmental and solar industry groups.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to install 3,000 MW of solar capacity by 2018, to generate 5% of the state's power at peak periods. Supply shortages at those times created crises in 2000 and 2001.

The bill would provide rebates for residential and commercial consumers that install solar panels of at least 1 kW (but not more than 1 MW of capacity) and which generate surplus power for sale into the grid. The legislation proposes that ratepayers provide incentives for ten years in a move that "will jump-start this very promising technology," according to republican senate John Campbell, one of the bill's authors.

Co-author, democratic senator Kevin Murray, promised to work out objections from labour unions and cap the level of incentive that could be offered each year to ensure that power bills do not increase to pay incentives.

The legislation is “the most ambitious solar energy policy ever introduced in the United States,” according to the Vote Solar Initiative in San Francisco. Solar rebates will decline by 7% per year as the solar industry matures and cuts costs to become competitive with conventional electricity.

It will require all homebuilders of developments of more than 50 homes to offer solar power to all buyers by 2010, with the goal that 50% of all new homes would be built with solar systems in 13 years. It would also raise the current net
metering cap to accommodate the 3,000 MW of solar and allocate 10% of the funds for low income and affordable housing solar installations, along with technical and financial assistance.

SB 1 provides higher rebates for super energy efficient buildings and zero-energy buildings to capitalize on the benefits of combining solar and energy efficiency, and requires that all utilities in the state offer rebates for solar systems, allowing all Californian’s to participate in the program.

The initiative will reduce CO2 emissions by 50 megatonne over the lifetime of the installed solar systems, make solar PV more affordable by creating economies of scale, reduces reliance on imported fossil fuels, creates jobs and strengthen the power grid. The proposed law limits the cost of administration to 2% of the fund and would prohibit the California Energy Commission from establishing any other program (beyond the Million Solar Roofs Initiative) to encourage installations of residential or commercial solar PV systems. The CEC would conduct random audits of solar energy systems to evaluate their operational performance, and would be required to submit an assessment of the program to the legislature by 2009 and every third year after that.

More than 150,000 homes will be built each year in California in coming years, and funding a million solar roofs “is a cost-effective investment by ratepayers in peak electricity generation capacity and ratepayers will recoup the cost of their investment through lower rates as a result of avoiding purchases of electricity at peak rates, with additional system reliability and pollution reduction benefits,” the legislation explains.

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