‘Solar Homes’ Bill Passes Senate Committee

If a new bill makes its way through the California legislature unscathed, developers building more than 25 homes at a time could be required to install a certain amount of solar photovoltaic (PV) power on some of the homes. During his successful bid for the governor’s seat, Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated his support for similar measures, adding a little more weight to the bill’s chance of success.

Sacramento, California – May 3, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The Senate Housing Committee passed SB 1652, the ‘Solar Homes’ bill, authored by Senator Kevin Murray of Los Angeles and sponsored by Environment California. SB 1652 will require builders of new developments of 25 homes or more to install solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems on a minimum percentage of new homes beginning in 2006. SB 1652 articulated a 25 percent minimum standard. The Committee voted to remove that percentage for the time being, approving language requiring a minimum standard beginning in 2006. “We are very pleased with today’s vote,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate for Environment California, a statewide environmental organization and sponsor of the Solar Homes bill. “The key provision of this bill is that it sets a concrete and significant solar energy standard for new homes so that California can be on its way to greater energy stability, increased jobs, cleaner air, and more affordable, reliable electricity for homeowners. The only opponent to testify was the California Building Industry Association. Their leading concern was the cost of the solar systems. This comes despite a statement on the organization’s Web site stating: “California homebuilders support ‘distributed generation’ of small power generating facilities throughout the commercial and residential sectors. According California Energy Commission data, a 2 kW solar energy system installed on a new home in 2006 could cost $11,000 and be cost-effective for the homeowner as the electric meter spins backwards resulting in cheaper electric bills. Further cost savings will likely be achieved as California’s market grows and as large builders purchase and install systems in bulk. “Solar power is much more cost-effective when included in the construction of new homes,” said Senator Kevin Murray (D-26), author of the bill. “This bill simply requires that builders phase in solar systems during construction, reducing energy costs and air pollution at the same time.” Approximately 135,000 single-family homes are built each year in California. A 25 percent minimum standard would bring about 65 megawatts of solar energy, equivalent to the size of power plant and three times California’s current solar market. SB 1652 is similar to last year’s SB 289, also authored by Murray and sponsored by Environment California. SB 289 stalled in the Senate last year. SB 1652 will be voted on next on the Senate Floor. SB 1652 is supported by a long list that included several businesses such as a leading California home builder, Clarum Homes, a home loan company, E-Loan, and a leading economist at University of California, Berkeley, Daniel Kammen who’s recent research further identifies the job creation benefits of renewable energy such as solar power. In addition, the bill is supported by a long list of other businesses and environmental, public health, consumer and religious organizations including: Bluewater Network, CALPIRG, Clean Power Campaign, Coalition for Clean Air, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life of Southern California, Global Green USA, Greenpeace, Intex Solutions, Inc., Los Angeles Interfaith Environmental Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Planning and Conversation League, Sierra Club, and The Vote Solar Initiative.
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