In the latest news on the solar rebate front, Florida – which in 2006 offered $4 per watt for solar energy installations as an incentive to increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio – appears to be about to renege on at least part of its promise.
The solar rebate fund in Florida is frozen, and state lawmakers are calling for a special November 16 session to override nine vetoes to unlock the fund and make good on their pledge. Nov. 16 is the date newly elected representatives, primarily republicans, take office.
The situation is equally dismal in other parts of the nation, where in Los Angeles, for example, the Dept. of Water and Power, or LADWP, is cutting its solar rebate from $3.24 per watt to $2.20, because it says the program saw more applications than funding – a surfeit the LADWP is blaming the stimulus (which removed the $2,000 cap on federal solar rebates) and the fact that a persistent recession has produced a glut of solar cells and panels on the worldwide market.
Unfortunately, even if fund unlocking occurs, the actual money available falls shy of the $52 million owed to Floridians who have installed solar power. By shy, we mean slightly more than half, or $31.3 million, of all money from the stimulus, and all because the spring session of the Florida legislature didn’t approve the needed state funding, say some sources.
The saddest part is that many solar installations were accomplished by borrowing money, and the state’s failure to abide by its commitment leaves about 13,000 Floridians holding a loan they can’t afford. Many of them are likely living off pensions deflated by the burst housing bubble, and one can only hope that those solar loans won’t cause them to lose their homes.
Similar scenarios have taken place elsewhere in California, but it’s not a failure so much as an achievement. Partners in the California Solar Initiative, or SCI – which include Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and the California Center for Sustainable Energy – have cut back rebates because of the remarkable amount of residential solar capacity installed.
Arizona Public Service also cut its solar rebate in April to $2.15 (per watt), and in August, New York’s Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA, dropped its solar rebate to $1.75, both cuts in response to unexpected demand and only after a certain portion of funds had been paid at the stated rate.