Senate Bill 843, a piece of legislation that would have extended the benefits of renewable energy to millions of Californians, died last Friday in the state’s Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce.
Currently, 75% of households cannot install residential solar (and other renewable energy) systems for one reason or another. One of the most significant factors is that 44% of households in California rent, rather than own their homes. Typically, the only people who can use solar energy are well-to-do homeowners with good credit and minimal shading challenges on their roofs. Senate Bill 843 would have made clean energy a possibility for Californians who don’t necessarily fit this restrictive criteria. It is a shame to see this bill die.
Supported by a volume of groups including the Sierra Club California, the California School Board Association, and the Department of Defense, Senate Bill 843 aimed to help Californians the opportunity to make use of virtual net metering from off-site renewable energy plants.
Essentially, this bill would have made possible the indirect consumption of clean energy for Californians who could not otherwise access solar, or some other form of renewable energy.
Proposed by State Senator Lois Wolk, Senate Bill 843 would have created 2 GW of solar energy through community facilities throughout the state of California.
Senate Bill 843 would have made it possible for utility customers within the territories of PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase shares of power from these community-based facilities that have medium-scale renewable energy systems (up to 20 MW).
Customers would sign contracts with the facility and pay a monthly fee for their share of electricity sent into the grid. These community energy facilities then report the customer’s percentage of the facility’s power to the respective utility. This amount of solar electricity would then be credited towards the the customer’s utility bill. This is how virtual net-metering would function with these community-based renewable energy facilities.
The renewable energy facilities’ economies of scale would have given way to a cheaper cost per kWh than standard residential systems- a savings that would keep the cost of electricity down for Californians who wish to utilize renewable energy through virtual net metering.
These small to mid-sized solar power plants could have been built at existing establishments such as schools or churches, reducing the need for large-scale solar power plants in the desert, which often pose environmental concern.
These community-based renewable energy facilities also would have created an estimated 12,000 jobs without spending any state funds.
Despite all Wolk’s compelling arguments to pass the bill, Senate Bill 843 died in California’s Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce last Friday.
Lois Wolk, State Senator from the 5th district of California
“Unfortunately, PG&E and Southern California Edison control the committee” explains Lois Wolk,“There was an agreement between the Assembly Speaker, the Committee Chair, and me that would have scaled the bill down to a pilot program under the Public Utilities Commission’s guidance and oversight. That agreement wasn’t honored and the bill died in committee, depriving the public of innovative energy policy in line with Governor Brown’s initiatives.”
Without the Community-Based Renewable Energy Self-Generation Program proposed by Wolk, three fourths of California will just have to wait. Despite this current setback, I predict that off-site renewable energy production through community facilities will eventually allow this demographic to access renewable energy.
I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.