California’s new solar program SB 43 nears the finish line!

California’s new solar program SB 43 nears the finish line!

As soon as tomorrow, the California Assembly will vote on a bill to give the majority of Californians a way to go solar for the first time.

Solar is growing by leaps and bounds in California, but many residents and businesses in the state still can’t go solar today. The traditional panels-on-your-roof approach to solar simply doesn’t work for renters, tenants of multi-unit buildings, property owners with shaded roofs and plenty of others.

SB 43, authored by Lois Wolk (Davis), would change all that. It would create an innovative green power program that allows any customer of our state’s largest utilities – PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E – to purchase up to 100% renewable electricity for their home or business. That clean power would come from small to medium-sized solar and other renewables projects.  Participants would then receive a credit on their utility bill for the clean energy produced. In doing so, SB 43 opens the door for renters and those with shaded roofs to go solar for the first time.

The program requires no state subsidies, has no cost to non-participating ratepayers, and is set up to deliver cost savings to participants over time as electric rates rise and solar costs drop.  It would create 6,000+ new jobs in the state and over $2.2 billion in economic activity in the next few years.  All of which means SB 43 has strong support from a diverse coalition, including schools, businesses, and environmental justice groups.  It has already passed the California Senate, and if it passes this final hurdle in the Assembly, it will go to Governor Brown’s desk, where we can expect he will sign it.

We want to be clear that this program is no ordinary “green tariff.” It’s not just about customers paying more for some RECs produced who knows where. SB 43 is better for two key reasons: 1. It would result in new clean energy projects, sized 20 megawatts or less and 2. It would provide participants with tangible economic benefits in the form of bill savings over time.  1 + 2 = big things for California solar.

We’ve been working hard to make this common sense policy a reality and we greatly hope to see SB 43 pass.  If it does, there will be work left to do with the CPUC to make sure it delivers the most cost-effective, consumer-friendly program possible.  In particular, we want to see California use SB 43 to create a robust shared renewables program in which customers can go beyond purchasing generic “green energy” and can actually choose to directly support a specific clean energy project with characteristics they value.  Maybe it’s a solar system on their kids’ school or on the local landfill.  Enabling this customer choice will boost consumer interest and drive the industry to compete to deliver the kind of clean energy development that Californians want to see.