PV Solar Report Contributor
Solar leases are helping far more people go solar than before and are helping spread solar in a big way. In 2012, third-party-owned solar represented 74% of California’s home solar market. And much of that market’s growth was in low- and median-income areas.
That’s great news! Still, about 75% of us are still left out of the equation. We may have shaded roofs, rent our homes, or live in multi-unit buildings. Businesses can run into these issues as well.
Solar for the rest of us
So how do we get solar for the rest of us? One solution is shared renewables. And now there are two bills making their way through the California legislature that could bring the state a pilot program to try out this idea: SB 43 and AB 1014. They’re really twin bills — almost but not quite identical — that will eventually be combined into one. You can find details, including case studies on shared renewables and summaries of both bills, at the California Shared Renewables site.
What this legislation does is allow investor-owned utility customers to get a bill credit for solar or other renewables produced at a location other than their own property. This would be completely voluntary, and ratepayers would not be affected — an important aspect of this legislation. Customers who sign up for this program would not experience any change in their service, and utilities would still get paid to make the grid safe and reliable.
Each bill would create a pilot program for shared renewable projects of up to 20 MW in size, for a total of either 500 MW (under SB 43) or 1000 MW (AB 1014). The goal is for this voluntary pilot program to spur more private investments and create a significant number of jobs.
The program would would bring access to renewable energy to a wider group of customers — to those of us in the 75%. There are even carve-outs for residential customers, as well as for smaller projects (1 MW or smaller) in environmentally or economically disadvantaged communities. And the bills protect prime farmland from being displaced by the projects.
A few other states have passed or are considering similar bills, but Joy Hughes of the Solar Gardens Institute considers SB 43 and AB 1014 “probably the most thoroughly thought through legislative treatment of the subject to date.”
What you can do now
If you’re in California and would like to support these bills, help is needed now! Some important votes are coming up in key Senate and Assembly committees:
April 22 ( Earth Day): Vote on AB 1014, authored by Assembly Member Das Williams and Senator Lois Wolk, in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee
April 30: Vote on SB 43, authored by Senator Lois Wolk and Assembly Member Das Williams, in the Senate Energy Committee
It’s crucial that the legislature receive letters of support — and they need to be in by Wednesday April 17.
So after you get your taxes filed, be sure to send letters in support of SB 43 and AB 1014! Especially helpful are letters from your company, organization, or school district. It’s important to write one for each bill. And it’s easy — you can simply fill out the templates here and then send the letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why support these bills?
Shared renewables programs allow many more people and businesses to participate in and benefit from solar. They give people and communities more control over their energy generation. Moreover, they help fight climate change, create jobs, reduce utilities’ need to buy power at the costliest time of day, improve the reliability of the grid, and save taxpayers money.
With all these benefits, shared renewables really are a win-win-win.
There are a number of ways to help spread solar. We’re lucky to have shared renewables as a potential option in California. Let’s work together to make that a reality. Let’s work to get solar to the 75% who are now left out.