Governor Signs Two Big Solar Bills

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AB 920 and SB 32 Continue California’s Drive toward a Million Solar Roofs, Give Consumers New Incentives to Go SolarSacramento

Environment California

Californians have two more reasons to go solar tonight. Governor Schwarzenegger signed two popular solar bills designed to give consumers added incentive to invest in a solar roof and help the state achieve its aggressive clean energy goals.

AB 920, authored by Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-Marin) and sponsored by Environment California, radically changes the dynamic between consumer and utility by requiring utility companies to write a check to their customers for surplus solar electricity generated on an annual basis. Previously, under the state’s net metering law, utility companies were allowed to receive surplus solar electricity from their customers for free. AB 920 requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to set a rate at which utility companies shall compensate solar customers whenever a solar system generates more electricity than a home or business uses in a given year. 

“Instead of writing a check to your utility company, you’ll be getting a check back,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate with Environment California which sponsored the legislation. “Changing the dynamic between utility and customer is key to encouraging more people to invest in solar power while also maximizing conservation and energy efficiency.”

AB 920 was supported by numerous groups and people around the state including the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, NRDC, Planning and Conservation League and many more. It was also embraced by officials such as the San Diego Board of Supervisors.

“As we work towards increasing our energy independence and promoting renewable energy resources, this bill will encourage more people to invest in renewable energy,” said Assembly member Jared Huffman, author of the bill. “This goes a long ways towards California meeting its goal of the Million Solar Roofs initiative under SB1 and clean air standards established under AB 32, as well as ensuring that consumers get a fair return on their investment.”

SB 32, authored by Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) and sponsored by the California Solar Energy Industry Association, establishes a new feed-in-tariff program for the state. A feed-in-tariff policy requires utility companies to purchase solar electricity at a set rate over a twenty-year period. It has the potential to incentivize massive solar installations on large, unused spaces, such as parking lots and warehouses. This program has been used with much success in places like Germany.

“Watch out. California is about to give Germany a run for the money,” said Del Chiaro. “Every warehouse roof, every parking lot, every unused sunny space can now become a mini-power plant generating pollution free solar electricity all while making money for the property owner.”

AB 920 and SB 32 were both signed on the last possible day the governor could act on bills passed on the final days of the 2009 legislative session.

“We applaud Governor Schwarzenegger for signing these two big solar bills,” said Del Chiaro. “Given PG&E’s opposition to AB 920 in particular, the governor’s signature further solidifies his commitment to achieving the vision of building a million solar roofs in California.”

There were several other solar and clean energy bills which did not become law this year. AB 560 (Skinnner) would have increased the cap on net metering from 2.5% to 5%. The bill never made it out of the senate and is expected to be revived in 2010. AB 64 (Krekorian) and SB 14 (Simitian) would have increased California’s renewable portfolio standard to 33% by 2020. These two important clean energy bills were vetoed by the Governor tonight as well. The policy is expected to be raised again in 2010.