Round Two For Community Solar Bill at California Legislature

Lois Wolk on the campaign trail in 2010 | Photo: Bob Tilden/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Though State Senator Lois Wolk failed to get her Community Solar bill SB 843 out of committee this year, she's game for another try at promoting decentralized, democratic solar power. Last week the Central Valley Senator introduced SB 43, which if passed would put the legislature on record as supporting the idea of community solar.

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SB 43 doesn't go nearly as far to establish community solar programs as its predecessor. SB 843 would have allowed individuals and community groups to buy shares in local distributed energy facilities of 20 megawatts' capacity or less, then receive a credit on their power bills equal to their share of the output of the facility they've bought into. SB 43 is phrased as an "intent of the Legislature" resolution, which would not create new law by itself but would say that the Legislature intended to do so.

Reading the text of the new bill, it's clear Wolk has been influenced by utilities' recent talk of passing solar costs onto non-solarized ratepayers. From the bill:

It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would require the commission to minimize the rate impact of a shared renewable energy self-generation program on nonbeneficiaries, with a goal of ratepayer indifference. To the extent that a program would impose incremental increases in rates, it is the intent that the commission ensure that the cost increases are equitably allocated to all customers on a nonbypassable basis reflecting both the costs and benefits that shared renewable energy facilities provide to the residents of California.

Wolk's bill would also give the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) a heads-up that the Legislature intended to tell the CPUC to dismantle needless obstacles to distributed generation, as long as other ratepayers aren't penalized.

And if you take California advocacy group Vote Solar at their word, those ratepayers won't be.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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