A Great Leap for Solar Power in California

Updated at: 09/16/2013 11:28 AM
By: Networx

Photo: CoCreatr/Flickr.comJohn Upton at Grist has a report on two important bills in California that stand to substantially increase the market for solar energy in the state. The already forward-thinking state is adding to its environmental reputation substantially with this legislation, which will hopefully be picked up in other states interested in making it easier, and more efficient, for consumers to access solar power.

One bill focuses on sales of excess power from consumers back to the utility. People with solar panels who are still connected to the grid for backup power have always been able to sell their power back when they're generating more than they need through a program known as "net metering," but this bill looks to streamline the process. The bill extends the program and compels utilities to take more excess energy from consumers.

That creates a substantial incentive to contact a San Diego electrician about installing solar panels, as though there weren't enough reasons already. Now, residents who put in panels can be assured that when they generate excess energy, the utility will have to keep taking it, and will have to take a higher percentage than before. That's good news for people who want to keep their meters running backwards as much as possible, forcing the utility to deduct the amount of energy it buys from the bill. Sometimes, utilities even end up owing their customers!

Another bill aims to make solar power more accessible to the general California population by allowing any consumer to request up to 100% of her energy from renewable sources like wind and solar. This creates a system where anyone can invest in renewable energy, even if she can't afford to put in solar panels or a wind turbine on her own property, and it extends from renters to major institutions, creating a substantial market incentive for utilities to start thinking renewable so they can meet the needs of their customers.

The combination of these two bills puts California on the map yet again for solar innovation, showing the myriad ways in which states can incentivize the use of renewable energy. Creating a system that allows everyone to invest in solar is very exciting for the state, and it's especially valuable for low-income communities where people may want to be able to participate in renewable energy programs, but be unable to as a result of financial hardship.

Turning away from non-renewable sources is of course better for the overall environment in the long term, but it's also good for communities struggling with pollution and other problems related to coal-fired power plants.

California isn't the only place making the news this week with innovative solar news. Israel just announced that it will be installing solar panels on the roof of its parliament building in 2014. The move will make the nation a pioneer in using solar energy to power parliament, hopefully setting an example for other nations to follow; the shape of roofing worldwide in the years to come is likely to change as rooftop panels become more and more ubiquitous.

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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