Agriculture + Environment

Wolk gives power to residents who want clean energy with SB 843

By From page A1 | May 13, 2012

Homeownership may not be necessary much longer.

At least, it may not be necessary to own a house in order to utilize solar power.

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, unveiled Senate Bill 843 at a news conference Friday morning with city of Davis leaders. The legislation would give millions of residents statewide the opportunity to use solar power drawn from off-site renewable energy sources.

Wolk explained that more than 75 percent of households in California do not have the ability to use solar power, a big piece of the renewable energy pie, for several reasons: because they rent and don’t own their roofs, because they can’t afford solar panels or because their roofs don’t receive enough sunlight under tree cover.

But Wolk believes this bill, titled the Community-Based Renewable Energy Self-Generation Program, would bring down barriers that stop residents from using renewable energy.

“(SB) 843 will offer schools, public agencies, apartment renters, businesses and other energy customers a new way to harness clean, renewable energy and save on their electric bills,” Wolk said as she stood on the front steps of Davis’ City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

“This bill would give millions of Californians the option to buy a portion of the power that is generated at a community renewable energy facility off site and to receive a credit on their utility bill for the clean energy that they purchase.”

The bill, which Wolk hopes would pass the Senate by August, would establish a framework for shared community renewable energy systems for customers of the state’s major utilities — PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

Customers would be able to voluntarily buy up to 100 percent renewable power from a shared facility in their utility’s territory. In return, they’d receive a credit on their bill offsetting a portion or all of the user’s energy usage costs.

SB 843 is not limited to solar power and can apply to any new renewable facility.

“One of the things we know is that we encourage people to live in apartment dwellings because it’s a little bit more dense,” said Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, who joined Wolk at the news conference. “But they can’t participate in renewables. SB 843 will change this.”

In addition to the benefits of helping individual customers with their energy costs, SB 843 could give a jolt to the state’s economy.

Tom Price of PVUSA, the solar farm on County Road 102 that the city of Davis co-owns to supplement its energy usage, said the bill could create up to $6 billion in economic activity, generate $500 million in state and local tax revenue and create 48,000 jobs.

“The bill will encourage, I believe, more investment and create local jobs in the California clean energy sector, which is a very important part of the future of our state economy,” Wolk added.

Krovoza, who sees the potential bill paying big dividends in the future, lauded the senator for her work on writing the proposed legislation.

“Lois, this is truly visionary, this is a game-changer for the state of California,” Krovoza said. “The momentum is so exciting with the environmental groups, the community groups, the schools groups and I know that when we’re here somewhere … at the end of June, we’re going to have a revolution begun in California because of your work and the work of your staff to get 843 passed.”

Sheila Allen, vice president of the Davis Board of Education, spoke about the benefits schools will receive from passage of SB 843.

Allen mentioned the cuts the school board made to its general fund budget last week and how, through using renewable energy, some of those funds could be restored in the future.

“The energy funds come from our general funds, so any amount of solar offset that we can do that pays for our energy needs is money that can go directly to pay for our teachers and our staff,” Allen said.

She also said the program would give schools the opportunity to teach students the value of environmental friendliness and “thinking of going solar.”

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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