Solar Power is without a doubt one of the most promising renewable technologies that is readily available today. The amount of energy from the Sun that reaches the Earth each second is enough to cover our entire energy demands many times over. One of the biggest challenges to using this energy is the fact that the incoming sunlight fluctuates massively: day/night, cloudy/clear days and winter/summer etc. Therefore in order to make solar powerful a viable choice for consumers at home, an agreement known as ‘Net Metering’ is vital. It allows consumers with solar panels to transmit energy to the national system when their panels are generating more energy than they can use, and in return they can withdraw energy when their panels can’t produce enough energy e.g. at night. The consumer would then only pay for the net energy used. In other words, if the consumer generated as much energy for the local electricity utility as it used then it its energy bill would come to a cool $0. Likewise, if the consumer used a little more then he supplied, he would just pay for the difference. There is therefore potential that someone could actually get paid by the energy company if they are efficient enough about their energy use, or have installed a large enough solar array.
You can see how this process is absolutely vital for the solar industry. Without it, solar panels would never be a reasonable option to cover a home’s energy needs as they would only have energy during the times that the Sun is out. This would also have the knock on effect of repressing the growth of the solar industry as it would be starved of consumer demand. The good news is that existing law requires California’s major electric utility companies to make net metering available to customers until the total program capacity exceeds 2.5% of the utility’s peak demand. However, after a dramatic increase in home solar installations in the last 2 years California is now home to 2/3 of total nationwide solar capacity and is fast approaching this 2.5% cap.
AB 560 is a bill that has been proposed to raise this cap to 10%. It is hugely important for the solar industry that this is passed and for any Californian consumer that is interested in getting their own solar array. On July 7th the bill passed the California State Senate Energy Utilities, & Communications (EU&C) Committee which is a very positive sign, although it was amended to increase the cap to only 5% rather than the original 10%. The bill will now be moved to the Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate. Its not only fair to cunsumers to compensate them for the energy that they produce, but vital for the transition to, and development of, renewable energies. Neighbouring Arizona has no cap on its Net Metering projects and this is likely to aid growth and investment in the solar industry there. Hopefully this example will encourage California to make the right choice for their consumers and the environment.
You can show your support for AB 560 here: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1179/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27474