Schwarzenegger approves solar homes plan

Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced legislation this week to build half of all new homes in California with solar panels.

Mr Schwarzenegger said he would like to see more solar technology included in house building when he was running for Governor (see related story) and the State Senate passed a bill in May forcing all developments of over 25 houses to include a proportion of solar panels (see related story) in their buildings.

“This proposal is about smart, innovative and environmentally friendly technologies that will help improve the state’s ability to meet peak electricity demand while cutting energy costs for homeowners for years to come,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Once implemented, it will establish California as a world leader in solar technology.”

With full implementation, the program is projected to save California 2700 megawatts of peaking power, and offset more than 50 million tons of CO2, which is the annual equivalent emission of 400,000 vehicles. The plan will mean energy savings for all ratepayers by relieving demand for energy during peak demand periods.

As introduced, the Governor’s proposed plan calls for:

  • The California Energy Commission (CEC) to offer an incentive (rebate) to place photovoltaic solar panels on new and existing residential homes;
  • The financing of solar PV systems as part of a new home mortgage. The annual electricity savings are projected to exceed the mortgage payment on the system;
  • Builders being required to offer a solar energy system option for homes in every subdivision with 25 homes or greater, starting in 2008;
  • The Public Utilities Commission to develop time-of-use pricing plans for customers that will allow them to sell back excess electricity to the grid;
  • Customers of both investor-owned and municipal utilities to take part in the plan;
  • Additional incentives for solar systems on affordable housing.
  • The California Energy Commission to review the program in 2007 to determine whether the state will reach the goal of one million homes by 2017. If additional funds are needed, the Public Utilities Commission may raise the Public Goods charge by an amount not to exceed one-twentieth of a penny per kilowatthour.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California said: “Ultimately, the governor has personally involved himself in this issue which has made a tremendous difference and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the legislature to make sure that California grows its solar homes market.”

Funding for the program comes from several existing sources. An initial $200 million was previously approved by the legislature for renewable technologies and will be dedicated to this program. Another $30 million will come from the existing Public Goods Charge (PGC) that was established in January 2001.

By David Hopkins

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