Tuesday, July 25, 2006

State's $3.4 billion solar power bill slated for August vote

State's $3.4 billion solar power bill slated for August vote

East Bay Business Times - July 21, 2006

by Mavis Scanlon

California's solar power industry is one step closer to a $3.4 billion windfall, with only one vote to go.

In January, the California Public Utilities Commission created the California Solar Initiative. The 10-year, $3.4 billion program, the largest solar program in the country, was designed to make solar power a mainstream option for Californians.

A bill codifying the program and making statutory changes to expand the scope of the initiative, is wending its way through the Legislature, and will next go to the Senate energy committee in early August for a vote on amendments made by the Assembly in June. In the latest version of the bill, SB 1, amendments important to the solar industry relating to solar thermal have been reinstated.

The most recent amendments allocate up to $100.8 million in incentives for solar thermal and solar water heating devices, which save fossil fuel, reduce utility costs and produce clean energy.

In previous iterations of the bill, introduced by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, provisions for solar thermal were taken out.

"It's a major positive development" for the solar industry, said Les Nelson, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association.

Solar thermal heating systems generally are less expensive than solar electric systems. That means a home or business owner who doesn't have $10,000 or more to spend on solar electric can make a smaller investment - $2,000 to $4,000 - and still realize the benefits.

"It greatly widens the market base," said Gary Gerber, president of solar installation company Sun Light & Power Co. in Berkeley."

mscanlon@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1405

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