Solar continues to rise in California


California continues to lead the United States in renewable energy with passage of a pioneering new law that dramatically expands the use of renewable energy in the state.

State Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed the S.B. 43 bill into law, establishing the Shared Renewable Self Generation Program, which allows customers of California’s three largest investor-owned utilities to buy up to 100 percent clean energy for homes and businesses.

According to the California Shared Renewables news and advocacy website, rooftop solar remains a strong and growing business in California, but at least 75% of households in the state cannot participate in PV energy generation because they are renters and don’t own their roofs (44% of households); they lack the necessary credit ratings to finance installations (28-31% of households); or their roof is too small or doesn’t receive enough sunlight. In addition, most businesses rent or lease their facilities and do not own their own roofs.

The new law will now allow people to buy power from small to medium-sized solar and other renewable energy plants and to receive a credit on their utility bill for the clean energy produced.

"After a hard fought three year effort, renters, small businesses and millions of others utility customers throughout California will soon be able to utilize wind, solar, and other forms of clean and affordable renewable energy through their utility provider," said California State Senator Lois Wolk, who authored S.B. 43, after Brown signed the bill into law.

Wolk described the legislation as "groundbreaking," adding that it enables "Californians who cannot install their own solar, wind, or other renewable power generation system to obtain up to 100 percent renewable energy through PG&E [Pacific Gas and Electric Company], Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric as soon as the fall of 2014."

The U.S. Vote Solar initiative outlined the law’s many benefits to California:

"The program requires no state subsidies, has no cost to non-participating ratepayers and is set up to deliver cost savings to participants over time as electric rates rise and solar costs drop."

In addition, the program is set to create more than 6,000 new jobs in the state and over $2.2 billion in economic activity in the next few years.

Writing last week in the San Jose Mercury News, Ann Notthoff, the California advocacy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Lauren Faber, the West Coast political director for the Environmental Defense Fund, pointed out that Brown had “made climate change a focal point of his administration” and that the governor’s push for more renewable energy would "continue California’s legacy of innovative policies that move our environment and economy forward and improve public health."