Friday, 27 May 2022

Senate approves bill to encourage use of solar power in multi-unit residential buildings

SACRAMENTO – The State Senate voted 34-2 on Tuesday to approve a bill by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) encouraging the production of solar power and energy efficiency in multi-unit residential dwellings where solar power has thus far been unavailable.


Her measure, Senate Bill 1460, requires the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create a program (by July 1, 2010) to address the barriers preventing apartment building owners and residents of multi-unit apartments from participating in the California Solar Initiative (CSI).


In her testimony Tuesday afternoon, Wiggins said her bill “requires the PUC to create a program to provide incentives and rebates to apartment building owners and their tenants to participate in energy efficiency improvements and solar energy projects.


“This bill encourages the use of solar power in apartment buildings where solar power has been excluded, in spite of the fact that all ratepayers – including landlords and tenants – pay to fund the California Solar Initiative program,” Wiggins added.


“The bill has no impact on the State’s General Fund given that the funding for the State’s solar program is paid for entirely by ratepayers on their monthly electric utility bills,” she said.


Currently, all customers and ratepayers of electrical services pay a fee on their monthly utility bill to provide funding to the state’s CSI program, which is funded entirely funded by ratepayers and provides up to $3.3 billion over 10 years to subsidize homeowners and businesses that install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.


Among the barriers preventing owners and residents of multi-unit residential buildings from participating in the CSI program:


  • Solar PV installations for one apartment or multi-unit dwelling must be connected to one meter as a matter of state policy. This has created problems in multi-unit, multi-metered buildings. State Law requires individual meters, with inverters (which convert solar to electricity, or DC to AC) for all dwelling units constructed after 1982 in multi-unit buildings. As a result, the upfront cost to install solar, combined with the additional cost of the inverters, is a disincentive for a building owner even with a 40 percent state and federal rebate;

  • The landlord/owner has to pay for the solar system but benefits very little from the solar power because it largely serves his or her tenants, even if the landlord resides at the apartment complex and/or the solar power offsets the electrical costs in common areas;

  • The PUC requires “reasonable and cost-effective energy efficiency improvements” in existing buildings before an apartment building owner can apply for the CSI solar rebate program. The upfront costs of improvements – including installation of dual-paned windows, additional insulation, etc. – can serve as a disincentive for a building owner, who does not benefit from the efficiencies.


“These barriers hinder a major portion of the state’s ratepayers who contribute to the CSI Program from putting solar power on the power grid during peak energy demand days,” Wiggins said.


Tuesday’s approval by the Senate means that SB 1460 now moves to the Assembly for consideration.


For more information on SB 1460 or other bills authored by Wiggins, please visit her Web site, http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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