California approves major new solar energy program

The California Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 12 voted 3-1 to approve the country's largest solar energy program. The initiative will provide $3.2 billion in incentives for solar systems on California rooftops over the next 11 years, enough for 3,000 MW of solar power, or the equivalent of 1 million residential-sized solar systems...

SACRAMENTO, Jan. 13, 2006 -- Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 to approve the country's largest solar energy program. The initiative will provide $3.2 billion in incentives for solar systems on California rooftops over the next 11 years, enough for 3,000 MW of solar power, or the equivalent of 1 million residential-sized solar systems.

The measure is expected to save money at a time of rising uncertainty about future fossil fuel prices, indirectly benefiting alternative energy technologies including co-generation and biomass from wastewater facilities.

"Over 50,000 Californians -- a Commission record -- emailed the Commission asking for this action. A recent Field Poll put support at 73%--even without explaining the benefits. It is clear that Californians wants solar to be a part of our energy solution," said David Hochschild of the Vote Solar Initiative.

With natural gas prices spiking to unprecedented levels and utility electricity costs going up by as much as 30% for peak periods, it's clear we need some new solutions. Solar, with no fuel costs, provides a valuable hedge against this volatility.

"Events of the past year have dramatically underscored the need for changes in how we produce our energy. This is something that we can't afford not to do," said Adam Browning of the Vote Solar Initiative. "A program of this size is what's needed to build the economies of scale necessary to bring solar into the mainstream -- and that provides hope in the fight against global warming" said Browning.

Endorsed by the Bay Area Council, the New Voice Business and many municipal Chambers of Commerce (including San Francisco and Oakland), it is clear that the business community understands that increased investment in renewable energy is critical for California's future.

And the investment community is supportive: "With this initiative, California becomes a leading player in the solar energy industry. Currently, solar energy is a $6 billion global industry and is expected to grow dramatically to $30 billion by the end of the decade. It's good public policy for California to assure that this industry has a strong foothold here. We believe that many local companies will prosper as a result," said Bob Hambrecht of WR Hambrecht + Company.

"This program saves ratepayers money, creates jobs, and fights global warming. What's not to like?" said JP Ross of the Vote Solar Initiative.

A Vote Solar Analysis shows that over 21 years:
• The net present value of avoided costs could be as high as $18.2 billion
• 219,000 job-years will be created
• Emissions of 188 million tons of CO2 will be avoided, equivalent to taking 3.9 million cars off the road.

Details of the analysis can be found at: www.votesolar.org/cali.html.

A reception was held following the vote at San Francisco City Hall with Mayor Gavin Newsom, Bill Reilly, of the Clean Tech Advisory Council and a past EPA administrator, Elliott Hoffman, of New Voice of Business, and others.

The Vote Solar Initiative (www.votesolar.org) is based in San Francisco, CA.

---

Also see: "$3.2 billion California solar initiative: Ready, set ..." [RenewableEnergyAccess.com]

###

More in Environmental