The California Senate is set to debate a ground-breaking bipartisan solar rights bill that will offer more protection to domestic solar consumers and raise standards across the sector..
The bill, known as SB 288 and already dubbed the Solar Bill of Rights, aims to protect consumers who want to install rooftop solar by standardising the installation and streamlining the permitting processes.
It would update tariffs in favour of homeowners who have solar, and would minimise red tape. The provisions could start as early as later this year.
The state is the world’s fifth largest economy and residential solar is expected to grow dramatically. Starting in 2020, new detached homes and residential buildings up to three storeys in height will be required to install photovoltaics panels.
“The bill would make it easier and more affordable to install solar & other clean energy,” said co-sponsor Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat, who introduced the bill with Republican Jim Nielsen.
“To fight climate change, we need 100% clean energy,” he said. Amongst US states, California has typically set the environmentally agenda, so the bill is being watched closely.
Compensation for the excess solar energy that homeowners sell to their utility would have to be “fair,” as established by state regulators and the utilities, according to the bill.
Tariffs that would encourage self-storage would also have to be considered, although the bill does not require that they are adopted.
So-called net metering, under which utilities buy the excess power, has been a bone of contention for those with rooftop solar.
Utilities say that solar panel owners, or leasers, should help pay for the grid, which other ratepayers automatically pay for in their electricity bills. But solar advocates want the homeowners in question to be recognised for generating clean power.
The state’s largest utility, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric, recently declared bankruptcy because of as much as US$30 billion in wildfire-related liabilities. It is unclear how that would impact rooftop solar owners who live in the utility’s service area in northern California.