California Solar Bill AB 560 Stalls, Putting Green Jobs, Electric Bill Savings at Risk
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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 email@example.com Copyright Business Wire 2009
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