, February 27, 2010 (ENS) - On the roof of a solar-powered Macy's store in Culver City, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday signed into law a bill that is seen as a critical component of the state's million solar roofs initiative.
The bill raised the cap on solar net metering to five percent from its previous level of 2.5 percent. Net metering allows solar owners to send unused solar electricity back to the grid in exchange for a credit.
Through net metering, solar customers' electricity meters spin forward when they are using power from the utility grid, and reverse, spinning backward when customers are producing more energy than they are using. Customers are billed only for the net energy used.
Today more than 50,000 California homes, schools and businesses take advantage of the state's net metering program to lower their utility bills.
The bill, AB 510, authored by California Assembly member Nancy Skinnner, a Berkeley Democrat, passed on bipartisan votes of 27-5 in the Senate and 61-4 in the Assembly.
"The Governor's signature signals to the over 1,000 solar contractors and companies doing business in California that our solar market is stable and ready for investment," said Skinner. "California is continuing to let the sunshine in to produce affordable, local power for our businesses, schools and public facilities and homes."
From left: SunPower's Julie Blunden, Vote Solar Initiative's Adam Browning, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Solar Alliance's Sara Birmingham, and Environment California's Bernadette Del Chiaro. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
Signing the bill into law, Governor Schwarzenegger said that as he travels the state, he is seeing an increasing number of solar panels. "That's what you see now in homes, on top of houses. You see this on top of office buildings and universities and warehouses, on factory buildings, on top of prisons and of course in schools," he said. "And right here at Macy's they have installed a 260 kilowatt solar system and that's what you see behind us here."
"In fact, in 2008, the governor said, "the amount of solar that was sold was double the amount of the year before and then in 2009 again it was double of 2008. So we are doubling every year, so it's really exploding."
AB 510 essentially doubles the number of people able to go solar in California. Before today, the number of Californians able to take advantage of this net metering program was capped at 2.5 percent of a utility's load. So, as soon as a utility got 2.5 percent of its electricity from net metered solar customers, it was no longer obligated to sign new net metering contracts. Now that cap stands at five percent.
"Solar power is the bright spot in California's economy," said Bernadette Del Chiaro of Environment California, a nonprofit group that supports the measure. "This bill is putting solar in the hands of more California families and businesses to help them save money and do their part to protect the environment."
"Ten years ago, California had 500 solar roofs throughout the state," said Del Chiaro. "Today there are over 60,000, the majority of which have been installed in the last three years. But the cap needs to ultimately be lifted in California if we are to truly realize our full solar power potential."
Macy's has a program to install solar electric power systems at 28 California stores. SunPower Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency, solar cells, solar panels and solar systems, is partnering with Macy's to design and install the systems.
At the signing ceremony on Macy's roof, Julie Blunden, SunPower public policy and corporate communications vice president, said that more than 50,000 homes, businesses and public organizations around the state of California have put solar on their roofs, in their parking lots and in their back yards. "Schools, water districts, prisons, have put solar on their roofs. We have enough solar on roofs in California today to equal 10 gas-fired peaking power plants," she said.
"The new solar market is creating jobs and it's saving jobs," Blunden said. "At my company, SunPower, we've gone from 40 people five years ago to more than 600 in California today, not including another couple thousand through our dealers across the state of California. We're looking at putting manufacturing back into California because we have now, thanks to this bill, a long-term solar market in the state of California."
At the signing ceremony, Adam Browning with the nonprofit Vote Solar Initiative said, "What this bill does is it establishes the right for people to generate their own electricity. And this is really important. This is democracy in environmental decision-making. It creates, as we've heard before, a long-term and stable market that leads to a sustainable and subsidy-free solar industry."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.
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