California Solar Water Heating Bill Clears Senate Committee

The California Senate Energy Committee approved a bill on Tuesday that would create the nation’s largest solar water heating program. The Solar Water Heating and Efficiency Act of 2007 (AB 1470), authored by Assembly Member Jared Huffman, sponsored by Environment California would create a $250 million ten-year program to provide consumer rebates for solar water heating technologies.

“For decades we’ve manufactured solar water heating systems within the state for practically every market but California,” said Freeman Ford, member of the California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) and Founder of FAFCO, a large solar water heating manufacturer based in Chico. “Due to a lack of government support, California has fallen behind in utilizing solar power. With AB 1470 California could again take the lead in the solar water heating market.”

AB 1470 would compliment the Million Solar Roofs bill (SB 1), signed into law last year. Instead of capturing sunlight to generate electricity, solar water heating technologies use the sun to heat water to near boiling. The sun-heated water is then stored for later use, a conventional water heater is needed only as a back up, and natural gas usage is cut 50-75% per building.

“We applaud the Senate Energy Committee for advancing this no-brainer solution to our energy and environmental problems. With this bill, California is once again charging ahead with real, viable clean energy solutions and taking another giant step toward becoming the Saudi Arabia of the sun,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California, sponsor of AB 1470.

An Environment California Research & Policy Center, “Solar Water Heating: How California Can Reduce Its Dependence on Natural Gas”, summarizes the significant benefits of growing a market for solar water heating in California. Some of the benefits include:

• A Healthier Environment: If the potential market for solar water heating were realized, this technology alone could reduce global warming pollution by 6.8 million tons per year. This represents 5% of the total reductions needed to meet the state’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions cap.
• Greater Energy Independence: California imports 85% of its natural gas. An expanded solar water heating market could save 1.2 billion therms of gas each year, of 5% of statewide gas consumption.
• Save Consumers Money: A typical solar water system costs between $4,000-6,000 before rebates. A federal tax credit combined with a state rebate provided by this bill would cut costs in half saving consumers up to 33-50% on their monthly energy bills.

AB 1470 now heads to the State Appropriations Committee.