Thursday, September 12, 2013

California Shared Renewables Bill SB 43 Heads to Governor Brown's Desk - America's Largest Solar Gardens Program Awaits

Sunset in Golden Gate Park - photo by Joy Hughes
     On September 11 (a patriotic day to declare energy independence), California's long-awaited community renewable energy program passed the state Assembly 57-16.  Later in the day, the Senate voted to accept amendments made in the Assembly by a vote of 27-12.  SB 43 now heads to Governor Brown's desk - Vote Solar is currently drafting a letter you can all send encouraging him to sign, which will be going out to the solargardens.org list as soon as it is ready.

     You can download the final text of the bill from the SGI website at http://solargardens.org/sb_43_final.pdf - the bill includes some changes that address some of SGI's concerns with last year's SB 843, including carve-outs for smaller projects, residential customers, and attention to environmental justice.  All renewable technologies are addressed by the bill, including wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas, and small hydro.

     This will be by far America's largest community solar program, at 600 megawatts larger than all other states' efforts combined.  By comparison, Colorado's Community Solar Gardens Act limited the initial program size to 6 megawatts per year (increased to 9 megawatts when the PUC rule-making process took longer than the first year of the program).

     Says Tom Price of the California Shared Renewables Organization:

Finally, all the renters, all the businesses who lease, all those living in apartments and condos, everyone with low income or poor credit scores--in short, the 75% of Californian's who can't already buy solar power and other renewable energy--will now be able to do so, at affordable rates, and without shifting costs to anyone else.

Here's what SB 43 does in a nutshell--tells the three utilities to get 600MW of solar for any customer who wants to subscribe for it.  Solar and other renewable projects get built at a larger scale ( lowering the costs ) and then customers "virtually" install the renewable energy on their bill. 

Importantly, 100MW is set aside for projects less than 1MW in size, to be built in "environmental justice" areas, identified by the State EPA has having significant impacts on environmental and income scores. In plain English:  built in polluted lower income neighborhoods, hopefully in part by the residents. 

Also, 100MW will be reserved for residential customers, like renters and those without the credit score to put solar on their own roof. 

This is a big, big, big win, and adds California ( long the leader in renewable energy ideas ) to the growing list of states allowing shared renewable energy. 

It was a long slog to get here, with many ups and downs ( it was just over a year ago, in fact, that a previous bill died hours before the legislative session ended.)

Deep thanks to all our supporters, and a special call out is in order to a few who worked non stop for years to make today possible: the great teams at the Vote Solar Initiative (esp. Susannah Churchill & Hannah Masterjohn) and Recurrent Energy ( Michael Wheeler & Polly Shaw), and of course City of Davis (esp. Mitch Sears), which sponsored the legislation the whole way through.

And of course, deepest thanks to Senator Lois Wolk, and her great staff including Jim Metropulos, Craig Reynolds, and former staffer Tina Andolina, as well as Assembly Member Das Williams and his staffer Erin Baum--all advocates should be as lucky to have such great partners.

Here's a news article on it: http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059987118 

Learn more about what other states are doing here: http://www.sharedrenewables.org/
 
     Now the hard work begins, as communities across California organize to create their own projects, bringing clean power to the people!
 
 

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