California Wants to Lead With Solar Initiatives

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solar-energy-roof-top-mount.jpgCalifornia, which has often led the nation in emissions reductions and environmental initiatives, is not the standard bearer in producing renewable energy today. If you consider all forms of renewable energy — solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, then California isn’t at the top in total production, and as a percentage of energy produced, it’s not even in the top five.

Washington, with its longtime investment in hydropower, produced nearly 58 percent more renewable energy from electricity than California, according to 2007 data. In California, 25 percent of all energy produced comes from renewables, which is lower than Idaho (84 percent), Washington (77 percent), Oregon (65 percent), South Dakota (50 percent, Maine (49 percent) and Montana (34 percent). Note that this is electricity generated not consumed. Many of the upper Midwest states actually export energy, while California imports the most energy in the country.

California’s Go Solar program has been wildly successful during the past few years, but the state wants to add a feed-in tariff which would guarantee a price incentive for all renewable power that customers sell back to the grid. The California Public Utilities Commission is developing the FiT and is expected to announce its plan soon.

The Golden State is going back to the future is it first had the idea for a feed-in tariff for solar back in 1984. When the price of oil receded, the program was canceled, only to be copied with great success in Germany, Spain and elsewhere. The city of Gainesville, Florida was the first municipality in the U.S. with a FiT; California and Vermont are considering statewide programs.

The California legislature wants to expand the state’s net-metering program, which is about to run out of room. California currently requires utilities to buy solar from customers at its full retail rate for up to 2.5 percent of the utility’s peak demand. Under AB 560, which passed the Assembly in July and is now under consideration by the Appropriations Committee, would double the net-metering cap to 5 percent of peak power.

“Raising the cap would preserve those consumer rights and allow the state’s solar industry to continue generating jobs, economic opportunity, and clean electricity for years to come – that’s a prospect that’s good for all Californians,” said Adam Browning, the Executive Director of the Vote Solar initiative.

Expanding renewable power is just one of many major issues in the cash-strapped state, so it is encouraging that state leaders are finding the time and energy to address the issue. For the Golden State to be the Gold Standard in renewables, it has a lot of work to do.

Appearing courtesy of Matter Network.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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