Million Solar Roofs Bill Passes Key Committee

The Million Solar Roofs bill, SB 1, cleared Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee yesterday, marking what advocates called the “highest hurdle to date” in a three year battle to pass the nation’s strongest solar power bill. The popular solar bill, which failed to pass this same committee last year, received votes from both Democrats and Republicans, demonstrating bi-partisan support for the bill.

The Million Solar Roofs bill cleared Assembly Utilities and Commerce by a vote of 6-0. Assemblymembers Levine, Pavley, Jones, Montanez, De La Torre and Baca voted for the measure. The five members who abstained were Wyland, Bogh, Blakeslee, Horton, and Keene. Co-authored by Senator Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) and Senator John Campbell (R-Orange County) and recently joined by Committee Chairman Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) as a primary co-author, the Million Solar Roofs bill promises to grow the California solar market, already the third largest in the world, by 30-fold, and an expected lowering of the cost of solar power. SB 1 is officially endorsed by Governor Schwarzenegger as well as a list of more than 50 businesses, environmental and consumer organizations, cities, and labor unions. “After three years of fighting for the nation’s biggest solar bill, today’s vote marks our greatest accomplishment to date,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California who has been working to pass the solar bill since 2003. “What makes this bill so exciting is that instead of solar being just for the backwoods hippy and Malibu millionaire, we’re talking about making solar as mainstream and cost-effective for all Californians as double-paned windows and insulation,” said Del Chiaro. While the bill could mainstream solar, there are still some important issues to be ironed out in the bill, according to industry sources. This includes the C-10 licensure requirement which is still in the bill, Edison’s amendment freezing rate design that is still in the bill and the annual appropriation requirement remains unchanged. These issues are now left to the Appropriations committee where the outcome remains uncertain. The Million Solar Roofs bill would establish a large, long-term solar power program to build a million solar homes and businesses over ten years, including building half of all new homes with solar power by 2017. Such goals would grow California’s solar power market from an annual 30 MW to over 300 MW. Economic modeling by Environment California Research & Policy Center shows this kind of sustained growth over ten years would be enough to cut the cost of installing solar panels, currently around $8.50/watt, in half by 2015, the price point at which the panels are cost-effective without subsidies. Key provisions of the bill include: – A $2.5 billion fund to homeowners and businesses for one-time rebates over 10 years, – An increase in the cap on net metering from 0.5% of a utility peak load to 5%, allowing a million new customers to receive a credit on their electric bill for any excess power generated by their solar panels, – A requirement that new, large single-family housing developments make solar panels a standard offer, similar to marble counter tops, to all new homebuyers, – A 10% carve-out in the fund for solar on affordable housing and low-income homes and exemption for low income ratepayers from paying into the fund. The Million Solar Roofs bill will be heard in Assembly Housing Committee tomorrow, Thursday, July 7th, and then in Assembly Appropriations Committee by August 26th before heading to the Assembly floor. Over the past five months, SB 1 passed two committees in the Senate as well as a 30-5 vote on the Senate Floor on June 1st.
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