Santa delivers critical solar and wind energy victories in time for Christmas

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Congress and state leaders issue decisions to expand clean energy; Congress also earns lump of coal in stockings for lifting oil export ban

Environment California

With just days to go before 2015 ends, Congress and Governor Brown have taken concrete steps to ensure that California continues to lead the country on solar power. Critical federal tax credits for solar and wind energy have been extended, and California regulators have proposed extending the state’s keystone solar net energy metering program, making it easier for Californians to go solar and to ensure that the state meets its clean energy goals.

“St. Nick arrived a few days early for Californians who want to breathe clean air and reduce global warming pollution,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “These two decisions will ensure that California continues to lead on clean energy in 2016 and beyond.”

Congress agreed this week to help unleash clean energy resources by extending the federal tax credits for solar and wind power 4-6 years, tax credits that have been central to major advances in clean energy. According to a recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, extending the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) beyond 2016 will result in more than 69 gigawatts of new solar power to be built across America between 2016 and 2022, representing a greater than 30% increase over the current trajectory.  The decision comes as part of the omnibus appropriations bill, which also lifted the 40-year ban on oil exports and will inevitably lead to more drilling, more spilling and more global warming pollution. 

“The decision to cave to oil industry pressure on the export ban flies in the face of the scientific imperative to leave fossil fuels in the ground,” said Kinman.

Earlier in the week, Governor Brown’s appointees to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision to uphold net energy metering in California, rejecting proposals from the utilities to gut the program and saddle Californians with unfair costs for going solar. Over the course of the past several months, over 150,000 Californians submitted petitions to the CPUC in support of net metering, the policy that allows solar customers to receive full retail credit for the excess clean electricity they send back to the grid. This solar petition delivery marked the largest number of public comments ever recorded at the CPUC on any issue. The CPUC will make a final decision on the net metering program in January 2016.

These decisions come as California continues to raise the bar on clean energy goals, with the state’s newly minted goal to generate 50 percent of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and—just this week—the City of San Diego becoming the largest city in the country to set an official mandate to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

“As the ink dries on the United Nations Agreement on Climate Change, clean energy decisions like these demonstrate that the U.S. and California are continuing to lead when it comes to reducing global warming pollution,” said Kinman.