California Solar Bill AB 560 Stalls, Putting Green Jobs, Electric Bill Savings at Risk

Mon Sep 14, 2009 2:02pm EDT

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Solar Advocates: Without Legislation to Extend Net Metering, Parts of State Will
Hit Program Cap in 2010
SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(Business Wire)--
The 2009 California Legislative Session ended on Friday without passing AB 560
(Skinner), a bill that would have allowed solar customers to continue benefiting
from a program called `net energy metering.` Net metering is a simple billing
arrangement that enables energy customers to use solar and small wind systems to
reduce their power bills when their system output exceeds their use. Without AB
560, parts of California are expected to receive enough applications to hit the
current program cap as early as 2010 according to estimates from solar advocacy
groups, a prospect that would be devastating to the growing in-state rooftop
solar market and the customers it serves. 

"Net metering means two things: it means energy bill savings when a consumer
goes solar, and it means local green jobs. It is not an optional policy if
California wants to continue building a new energy economy. We saw the state`s
rooftop solar market double in size last year alone. The looming net metering
cap would likely stamp the brakes on further growth early next year. That`s a
lot of jobs, savings and environmental benefits at risk at a time when
California frankly can not afford it," said Sara Birmingham, Director of Western
Policy for the Solar Alliance. "Stakeholders must work together to get net
metering back on track as soon as possible." 

When a customer installs solar, their electricity requirements supplied through
the grid are reduced. Through net metering, a solar customer`s electricity meter
spins forward when they are using power from the utility grid, and reverses,
spinning backward when the customer is producing more energy than they are
using. At the end of a given year the customer is billed only for the net energy
used. Today nearly 50,000 homeowners and hundreds of businesses rely on
California`s net metering program to reduce their electric bills. 

Existing law requires California's major electric utilities to make net metering
available to customers until the total program capacity exceeds 2.5% of the
utility's peak demand. AB 560 would have doubled the net metering program
capacity to 5%, ensuring that Californians deciding to go solar would not be
left without this valuable program in the coming years. Despite widespread
support, the bill`s progress was slowed in the final days of the 2009
legislative session by the late introduction of an amendment on the ancillary
contractor certification issues which produced a conflict between CA labor
groups. With labor interests on both sides of the issue, time ran out on the
legislation, and now thousands of jobs are at risk. 

"Thanks to strong leadership and hard work from Assemblywoman Skinner and her
staff, this bill enjoyed widespread support across an incredibly diverse group
of stakeholders. California cities, schools, utilities, utility regulators,
environmental groups, brick-and-mortar retailers, homebuilders, solar
businesses, and thousands of energy consumers all supported raising the net
metering cap to 5%. The fact that a tangential issue derailed one of
California`s most critical solar programs is unfortunate to say the least," said
Adam Browning, Executive Director of the Vote Solar Initiative. 

A review of the application rate for the state`s solar incentives suggests that
enough applications will be received to hit the 2.5% net metering program cap in
PG&E territory sometime next year. Once applications reach that cap, potential
customers will have no certainty as to whether they will be able to offset their
electricity bills by going solar. 

"If we can`t assure a potential customer that they will be able to receive
credit when their electricity output exceeds their needs, it will dramatically
reduce solar installations in California. Period," said David Arfin, Vice
President of Strategy of Solar City, a Foster City-based solar installer. "The
victims here are prospective solar customers and the green collar workers," said
Arfin. 

"Going forward, the choices are stark. Either we get this right in a special
session of the legislature or the first days of next session in January, or the
country`s largest, most robust solar market is at risk," said Browning. 

Net metering has no direct impact on the state`s general fund. In fact, it
allows California schools and public agencies to reduce operating costs by
investing in solar energy. California public agencies have already installed at
least 51 MW of solar, saving taxpayers more than $270 million in avoided utility
payments. With federal stimulus funds committed to support the state`s switch to
solar, this legislation is a critical component of a fiscally and
environmentally responsible energy future in California. 

For more information on net metering and AB 560, visit:
www.votesolar.org/CAnetmetering.html. 

About the Vote Solar Initiative:

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate
change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the
mainstream. Since 2002 Vote Solar has engaged in state, local and federal
advocacy campaigns to remove regulatory barriers and implement the key policies
needed to bring solar to scale. www.votesolar.org

About the Solar Alliance:

The Solar Alliance is a state-focused association of solar equipment
manufacturers, integrators, integrators, and financiers specifically working
with state administrators, legislators and utilities to establish cost-effective
solar policies and programs. www.solaralliance.org



Vote Solar Initiative
Rosalind Jackson, 415-817-5061
rosalind@votesolar.org



Copyright Business Wire 2009

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