California Regulators Adopt
$2.9 Billion Solar Power Plan
January 13, 2006 — By Leonard Anderson, Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO — The
California Public Utilities Commission Thursday approved a $2.9 billion program
to make California one of the world's largest producers of solar power.
The "California Solar Initiative," backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, aims to
add 3,000 megawatts of solar energy over 11 years through the installation of 1
million rooftop solar energy systems on homes, businesses, farms, schools and
That amount of electricity would be equivalent to about six new power stations.
The measure was approved on a 3-to-1 vote with one commissioner recusing himself
because of a possible conflict of interest.
Michael Peevey, president of the commission, said the effort "is designed to
create a sustainable solar industry" and to demonstrate California's leadership
in moving to reduce dependence on fossil fuels to produce energy.
If the program is fully implemented, California would become the world's
third-largest solar generator behind Japan and Germany. The state currently has
about 100 megawatts of solar electricity.
The program will offer rebates for adding solar systems and is expected to give
a big boost to manufacturers of solar power generating cells and panels.
An industry official said the commission's decision will give investors more
certainty about the future of solar electricity.
"This is a phenomenal decision. The regulatory environment has been the number
one uncertainty for the investment community. This long-term program provides
the certainty we have been sorely lacking," said Howard Wenger, executive vice
president of privately held PowerLight Corp., a Berkeley, California-based solar
The money for the program will come from existing funds already earmarked for
solar energy and gas and electric utility rates.
The average residential utility bill would go up by 65 cents a month, according
to Environment California, a solar power supporter.
Solar spending could save California utility customers an estimated $9 billion
from a reduced need to build new power plants and purchase electricity supplies
during high demand days in the summer, according to a commission report.
Schwarzenegger pushed a solar energy bill in the state legislature last year,
but it stalled amid policy disputes and amendments.
The Republican governor's energy goals call for making renewable energy like
solar and wind power 20 percent of California's electricity resources by 2017.