California solar bill will not see the light of day

05. September 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By:  Cheryl Kaften

Legislation that would have provided customers of California’s three major utilities – Southern California Edison (SCE) San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) – with access to virtual, net-metered photovoltaic energy was blocked in the state’s Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce on August 31.

The Californian red and white flag. I think there's a bear on it as well.

A bill that would've given access to thousands of households with unsuitable roofs, has been defeated in the Californian legislature.

According to a statement by California State Senator Lois Wolk (Democrat-Davis), who authored SB843, although there was "broad support for the bill, including that of major investor-owned utility, SDG&E," the measure was defeated following "intense lobbying" by the other two utilities, which, Wolk claimed, "control the committee."

"There was an agreement between the Assembly Speaker, the Committee Chair, and me that would have scaled the bill down to a pilot program under the Public Utilities Commission’s guidance and oversight," explained Senator Wolk. However, she said, "That agreement wasn’t honored and the bill died in committee, depriving the public of innovative energy policy in line with Governor Brown’s initiatives."

E2 Environmental Entrepreneurs, a group of U.S. businesses that championed the bill, said it would have provided critical support for the state’s renewable energy industry – noting that, although rooftop solar is a strong and growing business in California, at least 75% of households cannot participate because:

  • They are renters and don’t own their own roofs;
  • They do not have strong enough credit ratings to finance the installations; or
  • Their roofs are too small, or do not receive sufficient sunlight to make such a project feasible.

SB843, the business advocates said, would have provided "all of these California households and businesses the ability to voluntarily buy up to 100 percent renewable power from a shared facility in their utility’s territory and receive a credit on their current utility bill."

The bill was not limited to solar generation; it would have applied to any renewable facility that produced up to 20 MW of energy. "Three out of four Californians are currently unable to take advantage of affordable and clean, renewable energy through the state’s renewable power programs," Wolk said. "SB843 would have changed that, giving consumers the opportunity to save on their energy bill while encouraging more investment and creating thousands of jobs in an important sector of our state’s economy – all without spending any state funds or shifting costs to consumers who chose not to participate."

The bill was sponsored by the City of Davis and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, and supported by a broad coalition that included business, school, and environmental groups, affordable housing advocates; as well as the Department of Defense (DOD) and many local governments.

"There was a tremendous effort on the part of the bill’s sponsors and supporters, particularly the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, DOD, U.S. Navy, Vote Solar, Clean Path Ventures, Environmental Entrepreneurs, Recurrent Energy, and Renewable Funding. I want to extend my personal thanks to all those who gave their time and effort in a last stitch effort to get this measure to the Governor. Unfortunately, the coalition of support behind this measure was simply no match for the high paid lobbyists and the campaign contributions of these monopoly corporations," Wolk concluded.


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