Energy

Here’s The Real Reason Solar Companies Love California. It’s Not Because Of The Weather

REUTERS/Steve Marcus

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The solar industry cheered the California state assembly’s passage of a bill to mandate 100 percent “carbon-free” electricity by 2045, calling it “groundbreaking legislation.”

“As we await final confirmation in the Senate, this bill will lead to significant investment and jobs creation in California, and elsewhere in America,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said in a statement.

It’s no secret why SEIA supports the legislation since it increases the amount of renewable energy California must get by 2030. Experts expect most of that increase to be met by solar panels and wind turbines.

“We urge Governor Brown to sign this legislation as soon as it hits his desk,” Hopper said of California’s energy mandate.

That’s billions of more dollars guaranteed to flow to solar panel manufacturers and installers should the legislation pass. California already subsidizes solar panels through feed-in tariffs, tax credits and mandates all new homes have solar arrays.

Critics have said such policies make affordable housing harder to come by in California. Installing rooftop solar panels is expected to add between $8,000 and $12,000 to the cost of a house. (RELATED: ‘Green’ California Is More Reliant On Foreign Oil Than Ever Before)

Legislation passed by the State Assembly on Tuesday night would increase the state’s renewable energy mandate from 50 to 60 percent by 2030. The bill then requires 40 percent of state electricity to come from “carbon-free” sources — that is, with no carbon dioxide emissions.

That can also include solar panels, but seems also meant to include nuclear power, hydroelectric dams and power plants with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).

Analysts with ClearView Energy “do not currently regard the bill as a potential driver for new nuclear power buildout or CCS.”

Instead, ClearView analysts “expect solar and wind to represent a significant portion of the incremental zero-carbon policy,” according to an analysis of their legislation sent to clients on Wednesday.

The real question is whether or not more solar power can be shoehorned into California’s electric grid. The state already generates so much solar power during midday, when demand is low, that utilities have to pay other states to take the excess power to protect the grid.

Solar energy made up about 12 percent of California’s in-state electricity generation in 2017, according to California Energy commission data. It’s the state’s largest, non-hydro, source of renewable electricity.

But that’s not good enough for the solar industry it seems. Hopper also called on California lawmakers to pass another piece of legislation requiring utilities to buy more renewable energy and a bill to create a regional electricity market with neighboring states.

“That’s why we are asking lawmakers to also pass AB 893, which would require utilities to ramp up procurement of renewable resources,” Hopper said. “Furthermore, AB 813, legislation to create a regional electricity market that includes California and neighboring states will help accelerate renewable energy deployment in California and other areas of the West.”

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