Saturday, 16 October 2021

Committee approves Wiggins' solar, phone bills

SACRAMENTO – The State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications voted overwhelmingly today to approve three bills by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa).


Two bills seek to expand the use of solar power in California, while the third would protect residents of rural areas from dramatic increases in their telephone rates. All three measures were approved by votes of 9-0.


SB 1149 continues funding for a grant program that provides residential telephone services and cellular coverage to people who are considered to be low-income and/or live in rural areas where no telephone services are currently offered.


SB 1460 requires the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create a program to provide incentives/rebates to apartment building owners and their tenants to participate in energy efficiency improvements and the California Solar Initiative (CSI).


Wiggins said that the purpose of SB 1460 is to “encourage the use of solar power in apartment buildings where solar power opportunities have been largely excluded, in spite of the fact that all ratepayers – including landlords and tenants – pay to fund the state’s solar incentive programs.”


According to Wiggins, 43 percent of the state’s housing units are rentals, which means that many Californians are unable to benefit from programs supporting energy efficiency and solar energy. Owners of apartments currently have little financial incentive to implement cost-effective energy efficiency improvements and solar energy projects because of the expensive upfront costs, and because it primarily serves to benefit tenants.


“This has been a longstanding problem that predates the state’s solar energy programs and began when the state began implementing energy efficiency programs,” Wiggins said. “If all ratepayers fund these types of programs, they should be allowed to benefit from these programs.”


SB 1512 allows wineries and other business owners to have their solar PV systems installed to offset all the electrical use on their property rather than just the electrical load of one meter. Many wineries and farms have more than one meter on their property; unfortunately, the CSI program prohibits the solar rebate from being utilized on more than one meter unless the property owner applies for a rebate on each meter which is expensive.


Wiggins said that “SB 1512 seeks to provide solutions to the many hoops that solar customers are forced to jump through unnecessarily, simply because the rules for solar rebates require it.” According to Wiggins, “wineries in my district were restricted from selecting a meter on their property which would have given them better solar access, with less barriers, and for a lot less money.” She added that “the current CSI and net metering statutes need to be revisited and adjusted to encourage more businesses to install solar systems.”


SB 1512 would allow a business owner to choose which meter on his or her property is the most centrally-located and cost-effective to route all the lines to in order to participate in the CSI and net energy metering programs.


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